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Biden Delivers Fiery Address Blasting Putin's War; Ex-U.K. PM Boris Johnson: Putin's Speech Shows He's "Desperate"; Polish President: Biden's Kyiv Visit An "Incredibly Powerful Signal." Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 21, 2023 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Quick programming note.

Join Fareed Zakaria, as he hosts National Security officials, from the Biden administration, for a CNN Town Hall, "RUSSIA'S INVASION OF UKRAINE, ONE YEAR LATER." You can see it, Thursday night, at 9 PM Eastern, right here, on CNN.

News continues, with the Special Edition of THE SITUATION ROOM WITH WOLF BLITZER.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Tonight, two presidents, two speeches, two very different messages, to the world, the dramatic split screen.

As Russia's war hits an inflection point, the American president, in Europe, defending democracy.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Democracies of the world will stand guard over freedom today, tomorrow, and forever.


BLITZER: His Russian counterpart, defending his illegal invasion of Ukraine.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): They are responsible for the escalation of the situation in Ukraine, for the huge numbers of casualties.


BLITZER: At the center of it all, alliances, some steadfast, some dangerous, nuclear threats, and a devastating war, nearly a year old, with no end in sight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BIDEN: Appetites of the autocrat cannot be appeased. They must be opposed.


BLITZER: This hour, Christiane Amanpour interviews Polish President, Duda, in a CNN Exclusive.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: What more needs to be done, to ensure what, you say, is Ukraine's victory, in this war?


BLITZER: And former British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, joins me, with his take, on where Putin takes his war next.


BORIS JOHNSON, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: This was a war of choice that he initiated. It was his vicious and unprovoked attack, on Ukraine.


BLITZER: We want to welcome our viewers, here, in the United States, and around the world.

I am Wolf Blitzer. And this is a Special Edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.

We have developing news, tonight, on a missile test, conducted by Russia, during President Biden's surprise trip, to Ukraine, yesterday.

And it comes, as the Leader of the Free World, took on the autocrat, trying to destroy Ukraine, President Biden delivering a fiery address, in Poland, today, to mark the upcoming one-year anniversary, of Putin's ruthless invasion.

And on the other side of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin stood defiant as ever, in Russia, while updating parliament, on his war, putting his own usual spin, on the truth, falsely claiming that Ukraine and the West started this conflict.

Mr. Biden singled out the Russian leader, by name, 10 times, in his speech, declaring, and I'm quoting now, "Putin's craven lust for land and power will fail."


BIDEN: When President Putin ordered his tanks to roll into Ukraine, he thought we would roll over. He was wrong.

He thought he'd get the Finlandization (ph) of NATO. Instead, he got the NATOization of Finland - and Sweden.

He found himself at war with a nation led by a man whose courage would be forged in fire and steel: President Zelenskyy.

Democracies of the world will stand guard over freedom today, tomorrow, and forever.


BLITZER: Putin didn't mention President Biden at all, in his speech. He did say he's suspending his country's participation, in the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty with America.

We are live, around the world, this hour.

Christiane Amanpour is near the Ukrainian-Polish border.

Phil Mattingly is in Warsaw.

Matthew Chance is in London.

Sam Kiley is in Eastern Ukraine.

And Tom Foreman is in Washington.

Let's get straight to all the latest developments.

Our Senior International Correspondent, Matthew Chance, has new information, about that failed Russian missile test.

And our Chief White House Correspondent, Phil Mattingly, is traveling with President Biden, in Poland.

First to you, Matthew. What can you tell us about this long-range missile test that Russia actually carried out, while President Biden was in Ukraine?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, this clearly intended, as a defiant show of force, on the part of the Kremlin, as Joe Biden, U.S. President, walking through the streets, of the Ukrainian capital, shoulder-to-shoulder, with President Zelenskyy, his Ukrainian counterpart.

The test firing of this long-range intercontinental ballistic missile, we're told by U.S. officials, didn't work. And, so that's one of the reasons why I expect we haven't heard anything about it, from the Kremlin's side. They don't want to point to the failings of their own Military infrastructure.

I think one of the other important issues, though, is that what we've learned, over the past couple of days, is that the de-confliction channels, between the United States, and Russia, are, in some ways, operational.

[21:05:00] The Russians told the United States, according to U.S. officials, that this ICBM test launch was going to take place, so they gave them a heads-up, just like the United States, according to the U.S. National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, informed the Russians that Joe Biden would be walking around, in Kyiv.

And so, despite all this bluster, between the two sides, and we had more of it, today, from the dueling speeches, of the Presidents of Russia and the United States, there are still communication channels that are open, Wolf.

BLITZER: Phil Mattingly, how does the White House see the road ahead?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as dramatically divergent, as the two speeches, from the two presidents were today, implicit in both was a reality, you hear from U.S. officials, and Administration officials. There is no clear end game, at this point in time. There is a long road ahead.

And that was a driving force, behind President Biden's remarks, here, in Warsaw, trying to steel, a coalition that has been remarkably durable, that has been able to stick together, more than two dozen countries, across continents, with countervailing pressures, on the economic side, on the domestic side, sticking together, through the course of nearly a year. And they know that they're going to have to stick together, for even longer.

When you talk to White House officials, they acknowledge that reality. They acknowledge the amount of work that lies ahead, and they acknowledge the fact that on all countries, defense industrial bases have certainly been winnowed. That will be something that will need to be addressed. New weapons packages, will have to be sent to Ukraine. New funding will need to be developed and drawn over as well.

But more than anything else, what you've heard from the President, what you heard from White House officials, in recent weeks, but most certainly, over the course of the last dramatic 48 hours, was that they need to steel for what's ahead.

And part of what the President's message was tonight was about the importance of doing just that, and the stakes, and just how broad and wide-ranging they are, far beyond just Ukraine, Russia, and the United States, but for freedom, for democracy, and for a fight that has a generational tent, and perhaps could be more than anything else in the years ahead, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thank you very, very much. Standby.

Right now, I want to bring in CNN's Tom Foreman. He has a closer look, at Russia's nuclear arsenal, and what the suspension of this key treaty, with the United States, potentially could mean.

Go ahead, Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf. Russia and the United States have 90 percent of the world's nuclear warheads, according to the Federation of American Scientists, with Russia estimated to hold a moderate numeric advantage, although of course every single nuke is a serious matter.

The New START Treaty says each country is limited to just over 1,500 deployed warheads, ready to be used, immediately. For example, researchers estimate Russia has 812, on land-based ballistic missiles, about 576, on submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and possibly 200, at heavy bomber bases.

Modern thermonuclear weapons are much, much more powerful than the atomic bombs the U.S. dropped, on Japan, in World War II. In Hiroshima, an official U.S. estimate says perhaps 200,000 people died, from the blast, and related sickness, over five years.

Now, some scientists say a single big nuke, dropped on a major city, could kill more than a half million people, instantly.

What's more? Some nukes are designed for very specific purposes. For example, researchers say, a Russian government document indicates their long-range nuclear torpedo, known as Poseidon, could travel thousands of miles, underwater, to strike harbors, creating, quote, "Areas of wide radioactive contamination that would be unsuitable for military, economic or other activities, for long periods of time."

And none of this even addresses the idea of Russia's shorter-range nukes, designed for battles, like those, with Ukraine.

Treaties to control or limit all of this date back to 1963. And the latest extension of the New START Treaty, signed by the U.S., and Russia, in 2021, was supposed to last five years.

But now, Russia, while not officially pulling out of the deal, is suspending its participation, even as some nuclear control advocates say, there is no provision in this deal for a suspension. Russia either fulfills its duty or breaks its promise.


BLITZER: Tom Foreman, thank you very much.

And just a little while ago, I spoke with the former British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. He's dealt with Vladimir Putin, on the world stage, over the years. He's also one of the first world leaders, to visit President Zelenskyy, in Kyiv, soon after the Russian invasion, and has made multiple trips, to Ukraine, since then.


BLITZER: Prime Minister, thank you so much for joining us. Let's get right to the questions.

JOHNSON: Good to know that (ph), Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you. In Vladimir Putin's twisted totally false narrative that we heard earlier today, "It's the West that started this war, and is trying to destroy Russia," how do you read his mindset going into year two of this war?


JOHNSON: I think he's pretty desperate. And what he said is, of course, ludicrous. The West had absolutely no role in starting this war. This was a war of choice that he initiated. It was his vicious and unprovoked attack, on Ukraine, February, the 24th, last year that started this war.

Ukraine was never going to join NATO, in any realistic timescale. He knew that. He did this for his own - principally, for his own domestic reasons. And he wants to rebuild the Soviet Empire.

He is currently failing, in all his key strategic objectives, Wolf. He failed to get Kyiv. He failed to conquer Kharkiv. And he's failed in Kherson as well.

But the war is very bitter, very blood - very, very bloody. And he needs - he needs to be pushed out of the whole of Ukraine. And we need to give the Ukrainians the help they need, now. Now! Now! Now!

BLITZER: Very strong words from you.

I know you dealt with Putin. And I remember, right at the start of this brutal invasion, you were then Prime Minister, and you made an extraordinary claim to the BBC, that Putin almost jokingly suggested that he could take you out with a missile. You remember that.


BLITZER: What can you tell us about that exchange?

JOHNSON: Yes, well, this is in the course of one of the conversations I had with Vladimir Putin, in the run-up, to his invasion.

And what he's trying to do is to creep us out, and as he did, in his speech, today, to try to introduce him, to the conversation, continually, the idea of nuclear missile exchanges, the unpredictable consequences, of this becoming a nuclear conflict.

It's very, very important, Wolf, we don't allow him to do that. We don't allow him to frame this conflict, as some kind of nuclear standoff, between nuclear-armed NATO and a nuclear-armed Russia.

This is about the invasion of an innocent European country, by conventional means. And us, friends and, supporters, of Ukraine, particularly the United States of America, the U.K., and many others, helping the Ukrainians, to defend themselves, by conventional means. We mustn't allow Putin to take us down that nuclear rabbit hole, if you like.

BLITZER: How powerful was it, Prime Minister, for the President of the United States, to make that secret trip, risky, to Kyiv, on this, the eve of the anniversary, of the start of the war?

You yourself have made that same trip several times.

JOHNSON: I think it's fantastic that Joe Biden did that. I congratulate him.

And I think it, as far as I understand, the matter, this was one of the first times, in history that the President of the United States has gone, outside an area, where the U.S. Air Force can exercise, direct control.

I've done that trip several times. I know that train very well. You sleep on a double bed. We're surrounded by all sorts of commie bling, because it's a Communist-era train, the Presidential train. And every time, you bump, over the points, and it's a very, very bumpy track, you keep thinking you're being hit, by a missile. So, this was certainly how I felt, the first time I did it.

It was exactly the right thing, for the President to do. I applaud him. And I thought his speech was excellent.

BLITZER: As you probably know, there are some critics, here, in the United States, on the fringes, shall we say, who accuse President Biden, of prioritizing this war, over domestic problems. And Republicans, like Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, questioning when he calls the "Blank check" to Ukraine.

Is that something that worries the U.K., right now, worries our Western allies?

JOHNSON: Let me be absolutely clear with everybody. The investment, in supporting the Ukrainians, is a massive economy, if it helps protect our peace, in the long-term.

If we fail to expunge Putin, from Ukraine, if the Ukrainians lose, then the jeopardy, for the whole Euro-Atlantic security area, for the United States, is all the greater. And, of course, the risks of read- across, in the Pacific, are all the greater.

By helping the Ukrainians to win, by decisive action, by giving them what they need now, and I'm talking about more tanks, more planes, and more long-range artillery, I believe that the Ukrainians can and will win. And that will be of decisive importance, for Western security. And my message, to all my American friends, is this will save us all money in the long run.

BLITZER: Because, I know you say, it's time for the U.K., to cut to the chase, and provide Ukraine, with fighter jets. If the U.K. takes that step, how long would it actually take though, to complete the training, to deliver the aircraft, to actually make a real difference, out there, on the battlefield?

JOHNSON: Well, Wolf, things been going on for a year. And we will know that in the course of the last year, we've eventually having exhausted all the other options, we've given the Ukrainians what they need, whether it's the anti-tank missiles, or whether it's the HIMARS systems, or whether it's now, tanks.


We always, sooner or later, come to the right answer, and give the Ukrainians what they need. Wolf, if it's going to be sooner or later, if that's the choice, then let's give them what they need sooner, because that is the humane, the compassionate thing. Finish this war, as quickly as possible, minimize the bloodshed, minimize the suffering, minimize the expense.

And, if we'd started giving them aero planes, a year ago, we'd be that much further, down the track. I don't believe it will take that long, to train people up, to fly either Typhoons, or F-16s, or Gripens, or whatever, or whatever we decide, we're able to give them. But let's get on with it.

And if it's a question, of sending people, who can do the avionics, and the ground stops, as well, training people to do that? Then, let's train them as well.

BLITZER: So, can I assume, Prime Minister that you're calling on President Biden, and the U.S., to start providing these F-16 jets to Ukraine?

JOHNSON: That is correct. And I think that the logic of what we've been doing, is to continue to give the Ukrainians, what they need, to protect themselves, to protect their halved (ph) own home, to protect their families, protect their country, and to expel Putin, from the areas that he has conquered, at least since the invasion, of February the 24th, last year.

And, in my view, now, I think the Ukrainians have an ever stronger case, for getting him out back to the 1991 borders. That's what - that's the Ukraine that people voted for, in 1991. That's the country to which they're entitled.

BLITZER: I know, Prime Minister, you share the U.S. concerns, when it comes to China's support, for Russia's war.

What changed China's calculation on possibly, possibly starting to provide lethal weapons to Russia?

JOHNSON: Well, look, I mean, everybody see what Tony Blinken said, about China. I am concerned about that. I think it would be very wrong, of the Chinese, to support Vladimir Putin, in that way.

Why would Beijing now want to be contaminated by what Putin is doing? Why would they want to be associated with this gangsterism and adventurism? I think it'd be a disaster for China. And I hope very much that it won't prove to be true.

But if it is true, it shows all the more clearly why we must now accelerate, our support, for Ukraine, and double-down on giving them what they need.

And, as I say, if not now, when? BLITZER: Before I let you go, Prime Minister, I know you've built a very deep and strong relationship, with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. How do you think history will remember his leadership, in this fight?

JOHNSON: I think Volodymyr Zelenskyy, will be remembered forever, as a President of a free Ukraine, who not only mobilized and galvanized his people, but found the language, to appeal to people, around the world.

And I can tell you that here, in the United Kingdom, you will see Ukrainian flags, in people's windows, of their homes, you will see Ukrainian badges, on people, people wearing Ukrainian ties, Ukrainian flags, flying, from church spires. Such is the sympathy and compassion that he has evoked.

He has been a truly inspirational war leader. And in one crucial respect, he has successfully mimicked Winston Churchill himself, because it is clear from what Joe Biden had to say, this afternoon, that Volodymyr Zelenskyy has mobilized the United States of America. And when America comes in, on the side of freedom, as America is today, in Ukraine, in my view, there is only going to be one outcome.

This is a war for independence. The Ukrainians are fighting, for their independence. And history teaches us that Wars of Independence only end one way. And, with the United States on their side, I've got absolutely no doubt at all, that the Ukrainians are going to win. But let's - since that is the case, let's minimize the suffering, and give them what they need now.

BLITZER: The former British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, thanks so much, for joining us.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

BLITZER: Really appreciate it.

JOHNSON: Thank you.


BLITZER: Up next, the CNN Exclusive, the President of Poland, a country playing a key role, in Ukraine's fight for freedom. He just spoke with our Christiane Amanpour.

Plus, CNN goes inside a Ukrainian town that's evacuating, right now, over fears, it's next, on Vladimir Putin's target list.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: Now, to an exclusive interview, with a major player, in the Global alliance, supporting Ukraine. CNN's Chief International Anchor, Christiane Amanpour, sat down with President Andrzej Duda, of Poland, a key member of NATO, soon after President Biden's speech, earlier today, in Warsaw.

Christiane is joining us now live, from Poland.

So, Christiane, what did President Duda have to say about President Biden's speech and his truly historic visit?

AMANPOUR: Well, he has been really thrilled that President Biden has come here, on this particular anniversary.

And of course, Poland, obviously was involved with President Biden's trip into Ukraine, because he had to take the train, from the border, quite close to where I am, into Kyiv.

So, when I spoke to him, especially after that huge, fantastic set piece that they set up, for President Biden's speech, he told me that he thought it was absolutely the right message, at the right and crucial time.


AMANPOUR: How significant, is this moment, for you. Before President Biden arrived, you said the speech, the meeting, would be of global significance, in dimensions.

ANDRZEJ DUDA, POLISH PRESIDENT (through translator): So, let me start by saying that these two days, today and yesterday, this surprising presence, of President Joe Biden, in Kyiv, it sends an incredibly powerful signal, a political and strategic signal.


It is a demonstration of strength of the United States, indeed. It is like saying that the American leader, who, as a matter of fact, is the Leader of the Free World, is able to travel, even where a war is raging, even to a place, where there is a potential danger. He's not afraid because the United States, it's strong enough to protect him. That is number one.

And number two, he was there. And today, he is in Warsaw. He gives his pitch to the whole world, because we have to say it like this. This is that speech, by the President of the United States, as I said, the Leader of the Free World. It is a speech, addressed to the whole world.

And he sends a signal of the defense of the Free World, of the defense of NATO, of the defense of every inch of the territory, as the President said, today. So, to us, to Poles, this American signal, this Allied signal, not only within NATO, but first of all, a signal sent by the greatest superpower, in the world, a signal sent by our friend, and ally, today, is so significant.

AMANPOUR: So, the United States, and all you allies have stood united. And the President today said that Vladimir Putin did not think that you would all remain united, you'd remain so strong, and that Kyiv, Ukraine would still remain free.

What more needs to be done, all the weapons systems that you've been sending, what more needs to be done, to ensure what you say, is Ukraine's victory in this war?

DUDA (through translator): The difference of potentials between Ukraine and the Russia is huge and obvious. Everybody actually expected that it would take 72 hours, at the most, the defense of Ukraine. And after 72 hours, Ukraine would fall, it would be captured by Russia.

On the 23rd of February 2022, I was in Kyiv. I talked to Volodymyr Zelenskyy, just a couple of hours before the Russian invasion. And, at the last moment, actually, we made it to the Polish border, because we traveled by car, back then. So, across the border, and right after that Russian missiles struck.

So, I remember, when I said goodbye to Volodymyr, Volodymyr told me, "Andrzej, I don't know whether we would see each other again." That was a very powerful moment, a moving moment.

And then he told me, "If Putin thinks that he would control Ukraine, conquer Ukraine, just as they used to, as they did with Crimea, in 2014, then he is mistaken. We have got 80 years of combat experience, and thousands of people, who were fighting on the front. We are going to fight till the end, till we drop." And that is what has happened, and they are fighting until today.

So, first of all, what they need is weapons, because the difference is huge, in terms of quantity.

What Russians have got today is old equipment, very old equipment. They are taking tanks, from 1960s, from their stocks. But they have those tanks. And they're crushing. They've got this advantage of steel, of the mass, and they are crushing Ukrainians.

There're 140 million Russians and less than 40 million Ukrainians. So, this shows you the mobilization potential, of Russia, and the mobilization potential of Ukraine. So, it's enough to look at this clear data, to understand that under normal circumstances, unless Ukraine gets support, it has no chance, of defending itself, on its own, against Russia. That is why Ukraine needs this support. It's indispensable.

What kind of support can we offer to Ukraine, as allies, what the United States is doing, what we are doing, as Poland as well? We have donated to Ukraine 300 tanks, from our stocks. Right now, we are providing more tanks to Ukraine.

At this moment, we are sending the state-of-the-art tanks that we have, Leopard tanks. We are providing a company of Leopard tanks. We have organized an allied collection, so to speak, of tanks, for Ukraine.

And this was what I was requested to do, by Volodymyr Zelenskyy, so the Prime Minister of Ukraine, asked for that. So, we initiated that today. The key to make sure that Ukraine defends itself against Russia is modern weapons, so that Ukrainian soldiers can efficiently fight, so that they have means to push Russians with.

AMANPOUR: Even fighter jets?

DUDA (through translator): If there is such a need, of course, yes. We still have got MiG-29s. Ukrainian pilots are prepared to operate them today.

The question is when will Ukrainian pilots be ready, to fly modern aircraft, at NATO standards, such as F-16s, or Mirage French planes, or your Fighters, or any other type of modern machines?

This is a question mark, when the Ukrainian pilots will be ready to do that, because the training of a pilot is much more complicated, and much longer than the training for tanker. So, this is the way it is.

So, here's a question mark. When will Ukraine be ready with its own force to use such planes?

AMANPOUR: I realize that you're all sort of holding off on that. But I want to ask you about the Leopard tanks, which you were very vocal, in unleashing, from Germany.

And yet, this weekend, at the Munich Security Conference, Chancellor Scholz told me that now Germany has to try to persuade you all, with your Leopard tanks, to actually send them to Ukraine. And there's been some slowness about this.

When will your Leopard tanks get to Ukraine?


DUDA (through translator): We are ready to send our tanks. Our tanks are ready to be sent. Right now, we are training, in Poland, Ukrainian soldiers, so that they are able to operate those tanks.

I'm slightly surprised by the answer that Chancellor Scholz gave you. I hope that they are also ready with their Leopards, because honestly, we have got serious problems, with getting spare parts, to tanks. Spare parts from Germany, is only as (ph) these problems are quite common. Other countries also have problems with Leopards, because Germans have got a serious problem, with providing spare parts, would not understand this situation. But that's the way it is.


AMANPOUR: And Wolf, Polish president has been really rock-solid, along with the Baltic States, and all those, who are around Ukraine, and very close to Russia, in really mobilizing the Western response, over this past year.

But what you did hear there is not just big weapon systems are needed, still for Ukraine, but a lot of ammunition. That is the most crucial element, right now, as the NATO Secretary-General says that they're having a hard time keeping up with how much Ukraine is using. Wolf?

BLITZER: Christiane Amanpour, thank you very, very much, for that excellent interview.

Just ahead, a liberated Ukrainian town, on edge. Right now, they're preparing for an anticipated new Russian Military offensive. CNN is there.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Welcome back to a Special Edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.


Turning now, to the, frontlines, in Eastern Ukraine, where the, bloody Russian advance is forcing so many civilians to evacuate.

CNN's Senior International Correspondent, Sam Kiley, as I report, from a town, many fear could be Vladimir Putin's next target.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A year, into Russia's invasion, this monochrome misery is all too familiar.

KILEY (on camera): This is what happened, just three days ago, here, in Monachynivka, an S-300 missile strike. Now, that's a missile, used by the Russians, for ground attack, which actually designed for bringing down aero planes.

But it carries a massive warhead. It's pretty inaccurate. And that doesn't matter to the Russians. Because this is all about smashing up the villages and towns, ahead of what the Ukrainians fear, is going to be a major Russian push, in this part of the country.

KILEY (voice-over): Captured on the second day, of Vladimir Putin's invasion, last February, this is no longer a town that scares easily. It was liberated, by Ukraine, in the fall, and is within mortar range, of Russian troops, today.

Yet, these teenagers are taking a walk, through what remains of their village.

KILEY (on camera): Why do your parents not insist that you all leave as a family?


KILEY (voice-over): "My dad has a farm here. He's got land. And we can't just leave it all behind," she says.


KILEY (voice-over): "So, we just don't want to go yet. Well, if it gets serious, then we'll leave."


KILEY (on camera): And how would you define really serious? In most countries, having a missile that big, land in the middle of town, is already really serious.


KILEY (voice-over): "Very serious is probably when a lot of houses are destroyed, and civilians suffer," she explains.

It's the defiance of Ukrainian civilians that Russia is trying to crush. Putin's rockets and artillery have rained down, on towns, from Kherson, to Kramatorsk, to Kupiansk, and the northern border with Russia, along the frontline of 1,300 kilometers. That's 800 miles.

This latest assault, on Kherson, another example, of the indiscriminate shelling of civilians. This isn't accidental. It's deliberate. The areas liberated by Ukraine bear the brunt of an ever increasing level of attacks by Russia.


KILEY (voice-over): Here, in Kupiansk province, as in Kherson, civilians survive on aid rations.


KILEY (voice-over): "We don't know what to do," she says. "Houses are shaking. Missiles are flying. We just don't know what to wait for. We're shaking like chickens. We don't know what to expect."

Fighting has been most intense, in and around Bakhmut, with a surge, in attacks, by Russia, on nearby villages, in a foretaste, of the anticipated offensive.

Veterans, like "Alex," who captured this tank, called "Bunny," from Russia, last March, are running low on ammunition. He says that he's sometimes in combat with only 10 shells a day.

"ALEX", UKRAINIAN TANK COMMANDER: It's really hard. We have a lot of casualties every day. And the problem is that the fighting moved inside the city, because like we are fighting, like building to building, and the distance is like 25 to 60 meters, so we cannot use artillery well.

KILEY (voice-over): Here, civilians place their faith, in Ukraine's forces, to hold off the Russians, and play their part by staying on, and staying alive.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KILEY: Now, Wolf, according to the local authorities, in Kherson, at least six people were killed, more than a dozen injured, in the use of multiple rocket launching systems, and indiscriminate weapon, clearly intending, to try to terrify the civilian population.

As we say in that report, the civilian population, by and large, in this country, is remaining incredibly resolute, after 12 months of agony, of war, of murder, of shortages, of mass movements of refugees.

And, in many cities, particularly places in the East, like Kharkiv, where I am now, or Kramatorsk, the population is actually beginning to return, to something approaching normal, particularly because the Russians were pushed back, from those gains, they made, in the early stages of the war.


BLITZER: Sam Kiley, reporting for us. Stay safe, over there. Thank you very, very much.

Vladimir Putin, framing his war, as a conflict with the West, we'll examine his long history, with American presidents.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: Vladimir Putin's fiery and provocative speech, today, took direct aim, at the United States, marking a dismal low point, in relations, between the Russian president, and his American counterpart.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us right now.

Brian, Putin has a long and complicated history with U.S. presidents.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Joe Biden is the fifth U.S. president that Vladimir Putin has dealt with, in his 20-plus years, as Russia's leader.

The relationships, as Wolf, has mentioned, have been very complicated. And almost all the American presidents, in that period, ended up getting a different Vladimir Putin than they thought they had at first.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I found him to be very straightforward, and trustworthy.

TODD (voice-over): George W. Bush had only been in office, a few months, when he swaggered out of a meeting, with Vladimir Putin, and made a declaration

W. BUSH: I was able to get a sense of his soul.

TODD (voice-over): Almost immediately, then-Senator Joe Biden, tried to tamp down enthusiasm, for the former KGB Colonel.

BIDEN: I'd caution the Administration against being excessively optimistic, about Mr. Putin, and his - and his intentions.

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR KEITH DARDEN, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Joe Biden is one of the American politicians, who identified, very early, the type of man he was dealing with, with Vladimir Putin. He did not trust Putin.

TODD (voice-over): 10 years, after his initial warnings, about Putin, Biden, as Vice President, met face-to-face, with Putin, in Moscow.

Biden told a journalist that he said to Putin during that 2011 encounter, quote, "I'm looking into your eyes, and I don't think you have a soul."

Biden claimed Putin smiled, and replied, quote, "We understand one another."


Putin later said, he didn't remember that exchange.

And analysts say Biden hasn't always gotten the Putin portfolio exactly right.

BETH SANNER, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: During the Obama administration, Biden was given the charge for that, along with Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

TODD (voice-over): Obama, his Vice President, and Secretary of State, famously tried to hit the reset button, with Putin's regime. But by 2013, the relationship was so bad that the two men could barely look at each other, during a meeting, in Northern Ireland.

Then came, Russia's invasion of Crimea, and its intervention, in Syria, during Obama's watch.

SAMUEL CHARAP, SENIOR POLITICAL SCIENTIST, RAND CORPORATION: I think Obama had a much more difficult time, with him, trying to maybe understand, where he's coming from, but failing, in the end.

TODD (voice-over): Obama's successor thought he'd figured out Putin and that he could cut deals with him.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think I'd get along very well with Vladimir Putin.

TODD (voice-over): But many analysts believe Putin played Donald Trump, from the start, especially when Trump took the word of Putin, over his own Intelligence agencies, which had concluded that Russia had meddled in the 2016 elections.

TRUMP: I have President Putin. He just said, it's not Russia.

I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be.

SANNER: That was the kind of thing, where Putin was able, I think, in some ways, to very craftily control the room.

TODD (voice-over): Putin has now been leading Russia across the administrations of five American presidents, a period, when he's launched multiple invasions, and allegedly overseen assassinations, hacking and meddling campaigns, always while working the angles, toward the person in the Oval Office, he's dealing with.

CHARAP: He does, at least, reportedly employs, some of the tactics he learned, when he was in the KGB, in terms of assessing, trying to find weaknesses, in those, who he's talking to, and trying to exploit them.


TODD: Now, as for the future, the analysts, we spoke to, say they believe Vladimir Putin is always going to want to be seen as an equal, with any U.S. president, he deals with.

They say they believe Putin wants to eventually negotiate, directly, only with President Biden, to end the Ukraine war, something they don't believe that Joe Biden is ever going to go for, Wolf. He wants to involve the Ukrainians, of course.

BLITZER: Very important history. Thank you so much for that report, Brian Todd, working his sources, and getting all that information.

Coming up, Presidential historian, and Author, Doris Kearns Goodwin, will be with us, to put this truly remarkable week, into perspective, what history tells us about what happens next, in this war.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.




FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The people of Europe who are defending themselves do not ask us to do their fighting. They ask us for the implements of war, the planes, the tanks, the guns, the freighters which will enable them to fight for their liberty and for our security.

We must be the great arsenal of democracy. For us this is an emergency as serious as war itself.


BLITZER: That was President Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1940 Fireside Chat, an effort to rally support, for the British, in the lead-up to World War II. 83 years since FDR's speech, President Biden echoed that same sentiment, earlier today, at a time, when polls show American support, for providing aid to Ukraine, is softening a bid.

For historical insight, I want to bring in Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Presidential Historian, and the Author of the really important book, "Leadership in Turbulent Times."

Doris, thanks so much for joining us.

I know you pointed out the connection, between these two historical moments, two presidents trying to rally support, at home, while also sending a strong message abroad. Do you think President Biden accomplished that today?

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN, AUTHOR, "LEADERSHIP IN TURBULENT TIMES": I think what he was able to do was to a rally for Ukraine, for the allies, and for the American people, and really the world. And if you couple that, with the surprise visit, yesterday, which captured the imagination, of the people, and the world, I think it's a double whammy, in a certain sense. But now, the challenge comes.

As Roosevelt's speech suggests, Roosevelt was facing an isolationist mood, and he used that wonderful metaphor after the "Arsenal of Democracy" speech that we need to, if your neighbor's house is on fire, you're going to lend them your hose, so that their house can be saved, and your house can be saved, at the same time.

And that's the kind of language, I think, somehow he's going to have to come back here, and still use the bully pulpit, because support is diminishing.

Maybe what he should do is take a page from Roosevelt, and figure out how to talk, in those terms, maybe a page, from Lyndon Johnson, and bring those bipartisan leaders, who are now supporting the war, to a dinner, at the White House, to talk about the trip, and to keep that support going. Because it's essential, as this war goes on and on that, that support remains, as high as it was a year ago.

BLITZER: What other lessons, Doris, do you think President Biden can take, from FDR's experiences?

KEARNS GOODWIN: Well, one of the things FDR understood, when we started sending our weapons, over there, was that he had to ratchet them up, little by little.

So, he started with surplus weapons. And then he got more fighter weapons, and just as Biden is being challenged to do, send more and more, so that the England could survive, which saved us 18 months, really, before we got into the war.

And Ukrainian survival is important. So, he's got to figure out. And this is what must keep him up at night, "How far can I go to send the next weapon along that they need, right now?"

One of the things Churchill kept saying is "Give us the tools, and we will do the job."

But then he oversaw, personally Roosevelt did, to make sure that those weapons got there. He went and made sure that the railroad tracks were free, so that they could get to the depots, made sure that they got off on the ships, make sure that they got over to England. It takes that kind of leadership, to make sure it's getting where it needs to go.

BLITZER: Right now, there's a growing fear, as you know, that the alliance between Russia and China could turn into something even bigger and more dangerous.

Ukraine's president says China's involvement could risk a Third World War.

Is that fear, do you think, Doris, is that fear overblown? What does history tell you about this risk?


KEARNS GOODWIN: I think, history tells that the people, who were living before World War II, could not have imagined that one step after another was going to lead to that World War. Maybe the people felt the same way before World War I.

So, we can't take away from us the knowledge that some kind of movements between China and Russia may lead to a larger war. It's what must keep President Biden up at night. So, you're trying to figure out how far can we go without crossing that line? And I think that's the calibration he's been making all along the line.

So, I think, it's a very sobering moment, even as we feel that great sense of enthusiasm, and excitement, about what Ukraine is doing, and the resilience that they have, and the desire that people have, for them, to win this war, because it's a war for democracy, as well as it is a sobering feeling that we could be on the verge of something larger than that.

The hope is that China understands that they have enough problems of their own, that not to get involved in this, at this time. But I don't know enough about that. I'm just hoping that history tells us that it's not what we saw, in World War I, not what we saw in World War II. And hopefully, our imagination has only taking us there, but not the reality.

BLITZER: Doris Kearns Goodwin, thank you so, so much.

And to our viewers, we'll be right back.