Return to Transcripts main page
CNN Live Event/Special
Biden and Zelenskyy Present United Front Ahead of Historic Speech; Exclusive First Details from Zelenskyy's Speech to Congress. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired December 21, 2022 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: We're awaiting a truly momentous event at the U.S. Capitol tonight. Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is preparing to address Congress, the nation and, in fact, the world about Ukraine's ten-month war for survival against Vladimir Putin's aggression, and the United States' crucial support of Ukraine and its democracy that has sustained this war.
Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is CNN's live coverage of President Zelenskyy's speech to a joint meeting of Congress on a special edition of The Situation Room. I'm Erin Burnett.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jake Tapper.
President Zelenskyy's speech promises to be a powerful closing moment of his historic visit to here in Washington, his first trip outside of his own land since Russia invaded in February. Zelenskyy was welcomed to the White House by President and Mrs. Biden just a few hours ago. The two leaders holding their first in-person talks for several hours, looking each other in the eye, as President Biden put it, as they discuss the future of the conflict in Ukraine.
At a joint news conference that just wrapped up, President Biden vowed that the U.S. and NATO would stand in solidarity with Ukraine, the president formally announcing nearly $2 billion in additional U.S. security assistance to Ukraine, including the sophisticated Patriot missile defense system. President Zelenskyy is stressing the importance of that aid and of U.S. and NATO support in the very difficult months ahead.
President Zelenskyy's motorcade arrived at the Capitol just minutes ago. He is scheduled to make a dramatic appearance with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the Speaker's balcony and then deliver his address to Congress, a joint session, with Democrats and Republicans, senators and members of the house, a rare honor for any world leader.
Our correspondents are standing by at key locations here in Washington and around the world, including in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. Let's go right to, Phil Mattingly, however at the White House where President Zelenskyy and Biden just took some reporters questions, including Phil's. What is your top takeaway from the news conference?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the biggest thing right now when you talk to White House officials in the wake of that press conference is a recognition of a very clear statement from President Zelenskyy that despite the lengthy conversations behind cross closed doors, there is definitely no sense that there is any more of a concrete idea of how the Ukrainian president sees this conflict ending.
In fact, President Zelenskyy, to some degree, walking kind of right up to the line of almost mocking the idea of just peace, saying it means something different to everybody. Just peace was really at the core of what U.S. officials were trying to outline going into this moment.
However, it is worth noting that when you are sitting in that room, in the press conference, and watching these two presidents interact, there was an ease in terms of their relationship, in terms of their back and forth, one that officials have made clear they thought they developed over the course of a dozen plus phone calls and video conferences in the course of this war, but certainly was on display.
But before their meeting behind closed doors and certainly after, joking at various points, including President Zelenskyy making light of one of one of the biggest points of tension in the relationship, that the Ukrainians will always want more weapons, more capabilities, saying that he's going to send President Biden a message about one Patriot battery being deployed and then he's going to continue to ask for more, as ever laughed, Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Phil Mattingly, at the White House for us.
I want to share with you right now some brand new exclusive reporting about the historic speech we're about to see tonight at the Capitol.
My sources tell me President Zelenskyy is preparing this inspiring speech in which he is going to directly address the American people. He will note shared values. He will directly thank the American people and U.S. politicians of both parties.
Perhaps the biggest news is Zelenskyy will discuss a peace formula he told President Biden about in their White House meeting and he will express a willingness to have a peace summit this winter. But in order to continue to protect his country, Zelenskyy will also continue to ask for help with sanctions, with weapons, with more financial aid, and with bringing the people who started this war to justice, in his words, while underlining that he has never asked for U.S. troops on the ground in Ukraine.
I'm told Zelenskyy will lean on his visit yesterday to the frontlines of Bakhmut in the Donbas region, which has been under siege since May. The Christmas fight there, he believes, resembles that of the U.S. troops during the battle of the Bulge over Christmas 1944 against a different tyrannical and oppressive of power, the Nazis. I would expect Zelenskyy to quote FDR.
[18:05:01] And I'm told there that there is an inspiring gift that Zelenskyy will bring to Congress from the frontlines of Bakhmut.
Joining us now is CNN Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward, who has spent nearly a 100 days on the ground in Ukraine since the invasions begin. Clarissa, why now? Why is Zelenskyy here in the United States now?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think there are many reasons, you know, to hear him tell it. He wanted to express his gratitude, and not just his gratitude, but the gratitude of the Ukrainian people, to the U.S. president, to the American people.
He wants to also ensure that that support continues. He wants to shore up and rally more support for the future to come, because I think he understands that Ukraine is at a really pivotal moment now. There have been some incredible counteroffensives that have seen the Ukrainians deal humiliating blows to the Russians on the battlefield.
At the same time, Ukraine is now being pummeled by Russian bombardment. Its civilian critical infrastructure is being decimated. They are facing very difficult conditions in the east of the country, in the southeast of the country. They are trying tooth and tail to hang on to that eastern location, that city of Bakhmut that Zelenskyy was brave enough to actually go and visit on the ground just yesterday. But the reality is they need more weapons. They need more support.
And I think in their mind as well, Jake, they kind of need to kick start this into a new phase, almost. They want to see longer range missiles, for example, being given to them. They have talked privately to Ukrainian officials about the objective not just being to push Russia out but to topple President Putin once and for all.
And so I think you're seeing increasingly a maximalist position from Zelenskyy and from his government. And now that is -- the job is to really sell that to the U.S., to the E.U., to NATO, to the west as a whole in order to be successful in that endeavor. For the most part, it seemed that President Biden said there is no daylight between the two countries on these issues and that the U.S. is willing to stand with Ukraine as long as it takes, Jake.
TAPPER: And, Clarissa, I'm also told that the speech tonight will include references to how Iran has been helping Russia in its attack on the Ukrainian people with those Iranian drones, some of which have parts manufactured in the United States, which the U.S. government, the Biden administration is very concerned about. That would be a savvy thing to do, because Iran -- obviously a lot of -- some of the skeptical Republicans in the room might be swayed, shall we say, by hearing and thinking about the alliance between Iran and Ukraine.
How significant is that -- the Iran's help to -- I'm sorry, Iran and Russia. How significant is that with what Iran is doing in terms of these drones?
WARD: It's been very significant. You know, we saw for ourselves on the ground, Jake, at a moment where Russia was really faltering, they suddenly came back swinging with these drone attacks because they were able to basically swarm them over cities.
When we were in Kyiv, we woke up early in the morning, you can literally hear them. They call them mopeds in Ukrainian, because of this distinctive whirring sound that they make. And they instill fear obviously in the people, but they're also very difficult for anti- aircraft systems and air defense systems to target and eliminate.
And they fall on critical infrastructure. They fall on civilian areas. They wreak havoc. They create chaos. And so they have definitely had a significant effect. It's not just the Shahed drones, there are also the Mojaher drones, there's a whole new wave of drones that are coming as well which they are even more fearful about. So, obviously, Zelenskyy is going to use every tool he has in his tool kit to try to galvanize bipartisan support.
And, by the way, that's not just the U.S. that we're seeing him talk a lot about, the Iran component, he is also been doing that in an effort to try to woo Israel into taking a more proactive, more pro-Ukrainian stance in this war.
So, he is extremely savvy actor, and he's going to do and say whatever he can in order to really impress upon Congress the importance of its continued support for Ukraine.
TAPPER: All right. Clarissa Ward, thanks so much. We'll come back to you.
And let's talk about this with my panel. I have to say, Jim Sciutto, invoking the battle of the Bulge, and so many Americans know about the Christmas war and the freezing American soldiers in the woods, and invoking that when discussing what Ukrainians in the Donbas Region are now doing in land that is still controlled by Ukraine, even though the Russians have been -- it's been under siege since May.
Again, Clarissa talked about the savviness. That's pretty smart.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It is because he's doing what he has done for some time, which is to frame this war as not just being about Ukraine, it is Ukraine fighting for the free world, in effect.
And, by the way, Biden reiterated that language as well in the press conference there. I'm sure we'll hear more of that from Zelenskyy to Congress, to recall, to invoke World War II to say this is a battle of that scale and that importance, and we are together.
And I think as you watch them today, the leaders, as you watch Zelenskyy address the Congress, the U.S. and Ukraine are now joined at the hip as allies. They were already allies in this war. They are very visible, public allies to a degree no other country matches right now. And that symbolism matters because that then makes this conflict in Ukraine even more clearly a superpower versus superpower conflict. This is very much the U.S. here, Russia on this side. You know, you're resurrecting terms from the cold war. It's a proxy war, right? It's a proxy war with all the dangers still of escalation, that this administration has tried to avoid as best it can. But trust me, the Kremlin watches this, and I would be surprised if they're not making that connection.
TAPPER: Yes. And, Gloria, I mean, I'm not the first one to remind viewers that 81 years ago, a different leader from Europe, Winston Churchill, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, came to Congress and delivered an address, talking about the threat that his country was under. Now the United States after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. There's FDR and Winston Churchill. And I am told that it is likely that we will hear Zelenskyy quote Franklin Delano Roosevelt this evening.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: A student of history, and this is no coincidence, that was in December 81 years ago when Churchill came to praised the transatlantic alliance and how important it was. And that is exactly what we are hearing from Zelenskyy.
And what's kind of remarkable to me is the closeness with which he and Biden, they are on the same page, in the same book. And, you know, Zelenskyy has a way of talking about how this is an existential struggle for his country and the children in his country and the parents who have lost their sons fighting in the war, and also at the same time saying this is hugely important for the world, and the future of democracy.
And I think he understands that that's a way to win over a certain contingent in Congress. Iran may be a way to win over another contingent in Congress. But it's amazing, because he is so political without seeming political.
TAPPER: Yes, smart. He's savvy.
BORGER: Smart, very smart.
WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Jake, there's another parallel. Winston Churchill, when he first became Prime Minister, was under a lot of pressure to negotiate with Hitler, a lot of pressure from his outgoing prime minister, from his --
TAPPER: Neville Chamberlain.
TAYLOR: Neville Chamberlain and his foreign minister, Lord Halifax, a lot of pressure for him to negotiate, because the British army was just across the street. And he said, no. Churchill said, no, I'm not negotiating with Hitler.
And Zelenskyy, as we know, is under a lot of pressure to negotiate, as well. You've already introduced that idea. He said no. He's not going to negotiate until certain conditions apply, until he gets the Russians out of his country. So, there's that parallel as well.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, Zelenskyy is facing a new dynamic that's here in Washington, which is also a major challenge for him tonight. He is going to face a Congress that is changing hands, a Congress that may have different views of the aid that is coming over to his country.
Congress right now is about to approve $45 billion in aid to his country. He's going to thank them for that aid coming. But that's not going to be the end of it. There is talk about they may have to come back and do this again next year, maybe even early next year, maybe even the spring. That's possible that this money could all run dry. And who's going to be in charge of that? The House Republicans will be in charge of spending that money.
He's going to have to make the case to the Republicans who are skeptical about this approach. Not all of them. They're going to be very receptive audience among most Republicans, but some of them are uncertain about whether more money is needed. And that is going to be his challenge tonight.
BORGER: Yes. Here's a number for you. In May, 57 House Republicans voted against a $40 billion package of aid to Ukraine, 57. Has that number gone up? I would think so.
TAPPER: We expect to see President Zelenskyy with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi very soon, as we're standing by for his speech. And when we go live to that report, we're going to tell you what the moment means. Here is the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
They have, of course, met before. Pelosi visited Ukraine, went to Kyiv, as have some other members. But so far, I believe she is the highest ranking individual, government official in the United States to visit Ukraine since the war began. Let's listen in.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Good evening. It is a profound privilege and with great pride that I welcome President Zelenskyy to the Capitol of the United States. We have talked about the fact that recently, a few months ago, we had the privilege of welcoming the first lady to this temple of democracy.
She made a great case when the need for more weapons, more humanitarian, more economic assistance by talking about the children. I told the president again and again that the children and the war using women as tool -- a weapon of war is something that the Russians are going to have to answer for.
But today, at this time, here we are today to welcome the brave, courageous President Zelenskyy in order to praise not only him, but the courageous, unified people of Ukraine for what they are doing to protect democracy.
Over the last ten months since the invasion, you, Mr. President, and the Ukrainian people have met Putin's brutality with a strong will. Your visit comes as the Congress prepares to, again, pass another consequential round of security, economic, and humanitarian assistance within the next 48 hours hopefully this will be done.
And I want to applaud President Biden's plan to deliver Patriot air defense system, additional HIMARS and other vital military equipment. We are very, very pleased at that decision by the president and the determination to get that done. And I give tribute to you, Mr. President, for making the case so clearly that how this is needed.
I was telling the president earlier that my father was a member of Congress when Winston Churchill came here in 1941, the day after Christmas, really within a week, and 81 years of today. And he made the case for calling upon America to help fight tyranny in Europe.
He said at that time, we are doing the noblest work in the world, not only defending hearth and homes, but the cause of freedom in every land. That is exactly what the people of Ukraine are doing, their own homes, their own hearth, but freedom and democracy throughout the world.
Eight decades later, it is my official honor, my father was there as a member of Congress 81 years ago, it's my official honor now to welcome President Zelenskyy to make an address to a joint session. And I said to the members, my father being there that day was a source of pride, part of our family legacy. President Zelenskyy speaking to Congress today, and your being in the chamber, will be a bright part of your own legacy.
Thank you, Mr. President, for honoring us with your presence. The entire Congress, Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate, look forward to hearing your message of unity, courage and determination.
With that, I'm pleased to yield to the distinguish President of Ukraine, the courageous, determined, unified president of Ukraine, President Zelenskyy.
PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE: Thank you so much. It's a great privilege first of all. Thank you for the invitation. A great privilege to be here. And, really, I prepared a speech to Congress. But I think the speech to Americans, that it is a great honor for me. And I want to give all the messages I have prepared in your language with all the respect to your country for that support that you have done for Ukraine, in our battle, really, battle for our freedom, democracy.
Speaker Pelosi tells that for our houses, families, for our great children, the same as you have, of course, and for me, again, honest, that I'm here, and the second time here.
But the first time was before the war, before full-scale invasion by Russians. And, you know, what can I say? A different, different feeling, like different history, like different life, but any way in this life is very important.
The Congress of the United States is a big friend of Ukraine, Ukrainian people, really, of freedom, freedom of Ukrainians. And thank you so much, that you supported us with financial support, and with really the things -- the ammunition which will help on the battlefield. Thank you so much. It's a great honor.
PELOSI: Thank you so much.
TAPPER: All right, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, their second meeting this year. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker Pelosi visited Zelenskyy in Kyiv earlier this year.
Still ahead, we're going to go live to Kyiv with a report on what this moment means for not just Zelenskyy but Ukraine and the war.
Our special coverage continues in a moment.
BURNETT: All right. You are looking at live pictures here of the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. You see him there with Senator McConnell, Schumer, the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, in Statuary Hall ahead of his address to a joint meeting of Congress, which will begin any moment.
He just briefly appeared with the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and as you can see is now heading towards that joint session with Senators Schumer, McConnell, Speaker Pelosi and others.
As we get ready for this incredible event, an event that was sudden and unexpected with very little warning, the Ukrainian president is now here. You can see him going through the mags there, the magnometers.
Let's go to Kyiv. All eyes there of anyone who can and watch or who has power, who is awake on this, I mean, this is an incredible moment for Ukraine. Our Will Ripley is in Kyiv.
And, Will, President Zelenskyy right now walking into that room, giving a speech at a crucial moment in his country's war and his country's history. Is there concern where you are, back home in Kyiv, for him among Ukrainians, that this trip and its link to the Patriot missile systems being provided could provoke Vladimir Putin?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: People here in Ukraine are not worried about provoking Vladimir Putin, Erin. One thing that we did hear in the lead-up to this is that they're grateful for the Patriots, but they want weapons that allow them to go on the offensive, because the Ukrainians are all about taking back Donetsk, occupied areas, Luhansk, taking back the Crimean Peninsula that was illegally annexed almost nine years ago.
And they say this weapons package, as impressive as it is and as grateful as they are, doesn't allow them to retake the territory that they say they have to retake to end this war that Russia started. This is not about just defending what they can hold on to for the Ukrainians, this is about getting back to pre-2014 borders, which includes Crimea, which is Vladimir Putin's crown jewel, Erin. And so that is a very strong feeling on the ground here.
Another thing people are really, really desperate for are replacement parts for the power station and to fix the power grid. Because even here in the capital of Kyiv, Erin, we talked to a mom, she only has electricity 40 minutes a day. Her parents have been without electricity and heat for days and days.
BURNETT: And that is the crisis that, of course, faces Ukraine where President Zelenskyy will be heading when he concludes his address tonight. Thank you very much, Will Ripley, in Kyiv.
I want to go now to Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, who seats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Murphy, of course, you have met with President Zelenskyy yourself. You have been to Kyiv, and here you are tonight prepared to hear his address to the joint meeting of Congress.
So, we understand that he's going to talk about a peace plan. What do you know about this? And is it a sincere effort to negotiate?
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Well, I don't think there will be a lot of detail around anything he presents tonight, but he's been very clear from the beginning, that his goal is peace but not on Moscow's terms. The fact of the matter is, right now, Putin needs to be shown the limits of his power. He needs to continue to lose on the battlefield. He needs to see his economy crumbling at the Kremlin's feet in order for him to come to the table and enter into an agreement that's worth the paper that it's written on, right?
There are two goals here, one, to get an end to this war, which likely comes through some diplomatic agreement, but, second, to have that agreement mean something. Putin has signed a lot of treaties and agreements that he never had any intention on sticking to.
So, I'm glad that he will be talking about a path to end this war, but I have a feeling that both he and the president believe that that path lies through some significant fighting in the interim.
BURNETT: Certainly. So, when you say you don't expect a lot of details, do you expect details on some of the crucial things that would indicate whether this is actually something that could be negotiated at a summit that Jake's reporting he may suggest happen in the next few months, as in, is he going to talk about Crimea?
MURPHY: Yes. I'll be eager to hear what he's going to lays out this evening. His bottom lines have been pretty clear, which include Ukraine having control over all of its territory, including Crimea. And so I think he's always been willing to be part of these negotiations. But going in at the outset with an offer to Putin to take over parts of your territory is probably losing strategy. So I think we'll all be interested to hear how much detail he lays out tonight. I doubt there will be a lot.
BURNETT: So -- and that's obviously significant. I know you know as much about this as anyone does at this time. You, of course, do sit on this Foreign Relations Committee, and you have supported, Senator, I know, sending the Patriot missile system to Ukraine, which is something that has faced a lot of resistance obviously in the administration.
That's why we're ten months in before it's happening.
And part of the reason is what Russia said it means. Putin's main deputy, Dmitry Medvedev, as you know, has directly said that providing the Patriot missile defense system would mean that it is fair game for Russia to target NATO, that they would be legitimate targets.
I know, Senator, that you're being briefed regularly. What is your view of that risk now after Zelenskyy came to Washington?
MURPHY: I think it's important to understand that President Putin regularly claims these lines that can't be crossed, one of them, for instance, was admitting Finland and Sweden into NATO, and they end up being all bluster. Why is that? Well, he understands what our red line is. If Russia steps one foot into NATO territory, there's going to be a coordinated response. We will defend NATO with U.S. troops, U.S. forces, NATO forces.
And so I think this is pretty predictable. He tries to up the ante. He tries to scare the United States and our allies into backing down from our support to Ukraine. But we've been clear all along, Erin. We've said, listen, we're not going to put American troops on the ground in Ukraine but we are going to provide them with defensive weapons abilities and there's nothing more quintessentially defensive in nature than the Patriot system, which is just designed to shoot down missiles that are being targeted at civilians inside Ukraine.
TAPPER: All right. And, of course, an air defense system. Senator, thank you very much. I appreciate your time. And, of course, the senator is heading into that meeting right now, where Zelenskyy will address Congress.
And as we get closer to that address, we're going to look at one of the main reasons that Zelenskyy is in the U.S. right now, and I was just talking about it, the Patriot missile defense system. President Biden now finally going to send it to Ukraine. So, it matters so much to Putin, it matters so much to Zelenskyy. What exactly will it do? Retired General David Petraeus will join us next.
TAPPER: And we're back with CNN's live coverage of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's address to a joint meeting of Congress at any moment. He's here in Washington, D.C. to thank the American people as the U.S. is now providing something he has badly wanted, the Patriot missile air defense system.
Joining us now, the former commander of U.S. Central Command, retired General David Petraeus. General Petraeus, thank you so much for joining us.
Before I get into this beautiful map here to talk about what the weapons system might do and might not do, tell me how significant you think this visit is by Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS (RET.), FORMER COMMANDER, U.S CENTCOM: I think it's huge, Jake. It's both symbolic and substantively very, very significant. Symbolic because the individual who has led this in a positively Churchillian manner since 24 of February is here, his first visit outside of his country since the war began and to the country that more than any other, perhaps more than all the others put together, has enabled his country to defend itself so far, but substantive, because there's $45 billion in an omnibus $1.7 trillion spending package that could be voted on as early as this evening by the Senate. And if that gets through, that could take it through next year and be of enormous assistance with security, financial, economic and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine.
And, again, doing that before the next Congress is very, very important, and I don't think that the timing of this was just purely coincidental.
TAPPER: Let's walk through what's going on in Ukraine and how these weapons systems might help. Right now, the Ukrainians are on the counteroffensive in the east of the country here, and in the south of the country here.
Now, the heaviest fighting is centered in the Donbas region, and that's this entire region here, and also especially in the besieged Ukrainian city of Bakhmut which President Zelenskyy, believe it or not, he was just there yesterday on the frontlines. How will Patriot missiles, if at all, help the Ukrainian forces in this area?
PETRAEUS: I don't think they actually will, Jake. I suspect that this battery, it's a single battery of Patriots, again, it's a counter- ballistic missile system, not taking down drones or smaller ammunitions, with eight launchers, four interceptors per. Each interceptor costs a few million dollars, by the way. So these are not just fired willy-nilly.
And I suspect they'll put it around the most important location in the country, which is the capital of Kyiv, which has the most important infrastructure, which is what these ballistic missiles have been targeting, trying to literally turn off the lights, turn off the water and the heat in Ukraine in the middle of its typically difficult winter.
Bakhmut really is all about what we have provided in other ways. It's the more than 1 million rounds just U.S. 155 millimeter howitzer ammunition alone and well over 100 howitzers to shoot them. It's the high mobility artillery rocket system and the various rockets, including the precision ones, that have been able to help the Ukrainians take out the logistical nodes that support the Russian frontlines.
[18:40:02] It's those capabilities that are most important in Bakhmut.
And by the way, a very interesting contrast that you had Zelenskyy yesterday presenting medals to soldiers on the frontlines in Bakhmut, the most embattled area in Ukraine. Meanwhile, you had President Putin handing out medals to his buddies in the Kremlin in the Ministry of Defense, not exactly frontline leadership. And one more example of how admirable, frankly, the leadership that President Zelenskyy has provided has been.
TAPPER: What about the precision guided munitions? What difference, if any, could those weapons make in this area?
PETRAEUS: They are huge. Again, so far, we have provided rockets that are precision -- have precise up to about not quite 80 kilometers. There's discussion in Washington that we could provide a system that provides it up to 150 kilometers, not with 300 of the army tactical missile system, but something in between.
And then we're also going to provide reportedly devices that enable dumb bombs to be smart, essentially to go to the coordinates of an enemy target that is identified either by a drone or by partisans behind the lines. All of this is very, very important because it's actually what forced the Russians to withdraw the forces that were west of the Dnipro River by taking out the headquarters, the ammo supply points, the fuel depots and the major barracks and assembly areas of the Russians and had forced them to pull of that back beyond the range of those very precise rockets accurate out to about 80 kilometers.
You double that range, and obviously you can push that back even farther. And you make what is already a very tenuous logistical system on the Russian side, really, even more incapable than it already is.
TAPPER: All right. General David Petraeus, thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us, as always. We appreciate it.
We're getting closer to President Zelenskyy's historic address to the U.S. Congress. We're going to have more on the expectations and his decision to leave Ukraine for the very first time since the war began.
Stay with us.
BURNETT: All eyes are on the U.S. Capitol where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will soon address Congress and the nation, delivering a thank you to the American people for their support during what has been ten months of war against Putin's invasion.
CNN's chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour joins us now.
And, Christiane, Zelenskyy's visit, as we said, a sudden and unexpected as it is, comes amid Ukraine's fears of a renewed Russian offensive, right? They've been talking about hundreds of thousands of troops, about coming in again from the north in Belarus, or the south. They've been very, very clear about this.
How crucial is Zelenskyy's address tonight in the timing here?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: It's massively important. The timing, of course, is a major punctuation point, as they do so much better on the battlefield. But they are concerned that Russia, with its huge mobilization, whether they're trained or not, they have manpower that they can throw at this battle without regard for life. That is what the Russians have done.
And the Ukrainians know that this could be sort of the beginning of another attempt. They do not believe Putin has ended his desires, despite his setbacks on the field, and he still wants perhaps even to attack Kyiv. That's what the Ukrainians say.
I have spoken to very senior NATO commanders who say they absolutely need the Ukrainians, much more long-range artillery, perhaps also attack and surveillance drones. Those kinds of modern and very important military hardware right now. And, you know, President Zelenskyy told me that he wants to thank the American people because he knows it's taxpayers who have really helped in this fight. And the fight is that Putin wants to control and erase Ukraine and stop the U.S. and Europe from supporting Ukraine.
BURNETT: We understand that he's going to talk about some sort of a peace plan in his address. I don't know if you just heard Senator Murphy, who is on the foreign relations committee. He says he doesn't think it will be very specific, but it's up clear.
The question for you, we know that there have been these red lines on both sides that have made any negotiation a complete nonstarter. Do you expect the address from President Zelenskyy tonight to have any effect on peace talks or negotiations?
AMANPOUR: I think everybody wants that to happen. I think if you see analysts, they're trying to say maybe it's time for negotiations now. Maybe there's some kind of parameters. I asked specifically President Zelenskyy that when I sat down with him last month. He said sure, I'm willing to negotiate an end to the war, but not just on Russia's terms. Just this week, the Kremlin said Ukraine could stop all this time if it accepted all of Russia's demands.
Obviously, that's a non-starter, particularly given Russia's setbacks on the battlefield.
So Zelenskyy will say what he said before, that, yes, but one of the main -- one of the main criteria is that Russia has to withdraw at the very at least back to the February 24th lines, and has to evacuate the territory for any meaningful peace, you know, peace negotiations to ever start.
BURNETT: All right. Christiane, thank you very much. I want to bring in now my colleagues and our panel to this
Audie, Christiane just mentioned something important. She says he wants to thank the American taxpayers who have been paying this. It is a very receptive audience in Washington.
And, yet, as Manu Raju just was pointing out, when you saw Zelenskyy getting ready to walk into that room where he is about to give this address to a joint meeting of congress, you saw Senator Schumer, you saw House Speaker Pelosi. You saw McConnell. You did not see Kevin McCarthy.
And there are some in the Republican Party who are not amenable to continuing to send money and weapons. Is that audience going to listen to him tonight?
AUDIE CORNISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, some of them have already said, no, they won't. And I have it's because they reflect this part of the sort of Trumpist part of the party that is what they would say kind of populist isolationist. And they have totally been on the ascent. You know, if you think about the late Senator John McCain, he was sort of the last of one of these neocon interventionalists, I care about the international community type Republicans.
And there's this growing constituency that we know Kevin McCarthy in particular is trying to appease in the next couple of weeks as he tries to make it. So there are these weird little domestic politics that have to do with us that are starting to resurface as America has sort of eased off the America-first approach of Donald Trump.
And we're back with sort of Joe Biden's approach, international, et cetera. It's sort of -- it's a key moment for us as well as Zelenskyy.
BURNETT: And, Colonel, when you look at it for what is being announced in terms of so far this appearance today with Biden and the Patriot missile system. From what they're getting, how much more is going to be needed? You heard Zelenskyy today, give us everything they want. They don't have everything. They're never going to have everything.
CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: That's right, and you see the kind of law of diminishing returns. What you want to do is you want to bring as much as you possibly can to the fight, but if you're the Ukrainians, you're going to do the opposite. What you're going to do is you're going to ask for as much as you possibly want and as you can possibly get.
And, like Zelenskyy said, he wants more Patriots. He'll get one Patriot battery. Now he wants more. And he's technically right. You need more than one battery in order to really do the job in Ukraine if you're going to protect --
BURNETT: Especially with all the targets. They are going to be immediately targeted on the battlefield. DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He's in a situation right now
where there are two American objectives that are somewhat intentioned. The first one, of course, is support the Ukrainians. The second one is don't get directly drawn into the war.
And throughout this first year of the war, you've seen President Biden try to walk that line by saying we're not going to give you something that will enable you to attack into Russia, that will provoke the Russians to threaten nuclear weapons. And, as we head into this next, longer phase, that's going to be a much harder line to run. Because every one of the weapons we're thinking about going forward now beyond the Patriots really does have that kind of offensive capability.
BURNETT: And, Kaitlan, this is -- you know, you've been covering the Biden administration. This is part of the reason they sort of slow- walked a lot of things originally. This meeting now, as we understand it, really only came together in the past ten days.
Why now, do you think, did Biden choose to do this?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: One thing I've been struck by is they keep saying new phase of this war. John Kirby from the National Security Council was saying that to us this morning. You heard President Zelenskyy saying that earlier today as well. Saying, essentially, this war is far from over and we're essentially bracing people for that. But it raises questions of how does it end. And they keep talking about just a just piece.
John Kirby said earlier that something that Zelenskyy wants here. But it was Zelenskyy speaking and he said I don't really know what a just piece. He was talking about the Ukrainians who have been through hell, who have lost their children. Saying it definitely means no territorial integrity compromises, anything like that. And it just speaks to the difficult position that he's in right now. And, so, seeing him and President Biden together, I can see what they'll say, ten months ago this was an unthinkable image to have President Zelenskyy in the halls of Congress at the White House. But it doesn't mean that the war is kind of closing in on any kind of end. They're basically saying it's far from over at this point.
CORNISH: It was unthinkable, but it's something Zelenskyy has been asking for, for years and years and years. The patriot missile systems.
CORNISH: I think when people first had these concerns to say we can't give x amount of weapons, it could fall into the wrong hands, X, Y and Z, they weren't where they are now in terms of how long and hard they have fought on their own. And they still do not ask for intervention.
And so the question I think people are asking themselves is what does it mean to escalate, what does it mean to be defensive, and what it does it mean to put something in their hands that would truly escalate? And I don't think in Washington the people who are making these decisions know that exact answer yet. [18:55:07]
I'm happy to let other people jump in here.
LEIGHTON: But, you know, the key thing is that -- you're absolutely right, Audie. The key thing they're looking at is what can I do with the stuff that I have now, and when it comes to the Ukrainians, very different from what you saw in Afghanistan. Afghanistan, the money disappeared, the weapons disappeared, everything collapsed.
This is a complete --
BURNETT: And the audience tonight he needs to make a clear case for accountability of where it's going and why because that is the audience especially as this is happening.
And I think there's no question as to part of the reason why is the GOP is about to gain control of the House.
And there is so much more ahead on this momentous night. President Zelenskyy addresses Congress and the nation and the world watching in the next hour. Our live coverage continues after this brief break.