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Hala Gorani Tonight
NATO Considers Troop Deployments To Eastern Europe; Boris Johnson Warns Russia: Invasion Could Lead To "A New Chechnya"; Gunfire Rattles Burkina Faso`s Capital As Soldiers Revolt; E.U. Calls For Calm, Warns Against "Alarmist" Reactions; Pentagon Gives Briefing As Russia-Ukraine Tensions Escalate; Pentagon: 8,500 Troops On "Heightened Alert" In Case Russia Invades Ukraine. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired January 24, 2022 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello everyone, live from CNN in London on this Monday, I`m HALA GORANI TONIGHT. The U.S. is sending
defensive military aid to Ukraine, NATO is sending planes and ships to its eastern flank, but they`re also still sending diplomatic messages to
Then, quote, "there is absolutely light at the end of the tunnel." The most optimistic message we`ve heard yet from the World Health Organization on
the COVID pandemic. I`ll tell you what it`s all about. And also this hour, the army of Burkina Faso announces they are in control of the country. What
we know about that apparent coup, this hour.
The worst crisis between Russia and the west in decades appears to be deepening by the hour today. Even as the European Union calls for calm, the
American President Joe Biden will meet with European leaders by video conference next hour to shore up a united response to Russia`s military
build-up along Ukraine`s borders. Mr. Biden is considering sending up to 5,000 troops to NATO`s eastern flank, while NATO itself is sending more
fighter jets and ships to the region.
It`s also putting troops on standby. The Secretary-General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg says the organization is, quote, "hoping for the best, but
preparing for the worst."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENS STOLTENBERG, SECRETARY-GENERAL, NATO: We are considering to further enhance our presence in eastern part of the alliance, this could include
deployment of additional NATO battle groups. These deployments are proportionate and in line with our international commitments, and they
reinforce European security for all of us. At the same time, NATO remains today to continue dialogue with Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Well, the European Union is also preparing for all scenarios, it says, as it warns against alarmist reactions that could escalate tensions.
EU foreign ministers met virtually today with the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Now, for its part, Russia is accusing the west of hysteria,
and it says Ukraine is preparing for an offensive against a pro-Moscow separatist region. Nic Robertson is in Moscow tonight, Kylie Atwood is at
the State Department.
Nic, let me start with you, what are the latest on Russian troop movements close to Ukraine`s borders? How have things shifted in the last few hours
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, Ukrainian officials are saying that they`re seeing a few more thousand deployed
there. Ukrainian officials also sort of trying to play down concerns and the country about, you know, about their situation. This is something that
they say they`ve been enduring for a long time. There`s obviously been some consternation, if you will, from Ukrainian officials about the drawdown of
diplomats` families in Kiev, but the message that`s coming very clearly from the Ukrainians and from the -- from their intelligence sources is
there is well over a 100,000.
There is still -- that number is still increasing. And we heard from the president of Belarus earlier in the day saying that he was going to be
deploying a large number of his forces to his southern border, which of course is the northern border of Ukraine, very close to the capital. So,
from a Ukrainian perspective, the build-up of forces around them continues, Hala.
GORANI: And Kylie, what would the mission be of any troops the U.S. sends to the region?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the main mission would be, of course, to create some kind of deterrence for Russia
here. Obviously, the United States didn`t want to get into a position where they were considering sending additional troops to eastern Europe and to,
you know, the region, the Baltic states in that area, but that is where they are right now. And they are doing it as a means of deterrence they are
saying, if that decision goes forth.
We should note that President Biden hasn`t officially approved that. It`s been one thing that he has reviewed with his national security team over
the weekend. And, of course, the other aspect to consider here is just giving the reassurance that those European allies need that the United
States is there to provide that support.
GORANI: Right --
ATWOOD: And to really do so in a formidable and very visual way. I think you also hear folks talking about the U.S. and NATO providing additional
military support to Ukraine to make the costs higher for Russia. If they do go forth with invading Ukraine to make sure that they do actually have a
bloody war here. That this isn`t something where they just barrel right on in, and the Ukrainians aren`t able to put up some sort of a fight.
And, of course, as we`re having this discussion about them sending potentially, you know, more troops, NATO actually sending some of that
military equipment, the United States is also preparing to provide as much protection as they can to their diplomats, sending home some of those
diplomats that are at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev now, forcing all of their family members to return to the United States.
That`s something that they wouldn`t do unless they were really concerned about the direction in which things appear to be potentially heading.
GORANI: Yes, Kylie, and one last one to you, Nic, what could be -- I mean, Kylie was talking about deterrence. For instance, the U.K. has sent anti-
tank missiles and anti-tank weaponry to Ukraine. Would any of this act as a deterrent to an eventual Russian plan to invade? Ukraine is not a small
country. You need tanks, you need heavy weaponry. If Ukraine is better armed, could this be a deterrent?
ROBERTSON: The hope is that it affects President Putin`s decision-making, because although he has a very strong military, I think the fifth largest
military in the world, it certainly -- it is powerful and it is very capable and it`s become more sophisticated in recent years. Deploying it
always has that potential political blow-back, if you will. That if there were to be heavy Russian casualties, which he hasn`t really experienced
recently, that could have a political cost. There is -- you don`t get the sense watching national television here that the country which is
controlled very much by the Kremlin, of course.
You don`t get the sense that the country is being prepared for war at all. The comments --
GORANI: Right --
ROBERTSON: Are really about what NATO is saying, what the United States is saying. And it`s all sort of ironic. So, this is not a nation that`s being
prepared for casualties. So by sending anti-tank weapon systems and surface-to-air missile systems to the Ukrainians, you would potentially
increase the suffering of Russian troops who got into confrontation with them. And I think it`s that political implication for President Putin, if
that were the case that they`re hoping to change his thinking here, change his calculus.
GORANI: All right, Nic Robertson, thanks very much, live in Moscow, Kylie Atwood at the State Department. The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
says the U.K. is taking a leading role in preparing tough new sanctions against Russia. He also had this warning for the Kremlin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, PRIME MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: We also need to get a message that invading Ukraine from a Russian perspective, is going to be a
painful, violent, and bloody business. And I think it`s very important that people in Russia understand that this could be a new Chechnya.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: All right, joining me now to talk more about the possible toll of a conflict, Britain`s Armed Forces Minister James Heappey. Thanks sir for
JAMES HEAPPEY, MINISTER FOR THE ARMED FORCES, BRITAIN: Hi --
GORANI: The other -- one of the other things that the prime minister said is there are 60 Russian battle groups on the border, and a plan potentially
for a lightning war that could take out Kiev, is one that everybody can see. Is that the concern from your perspective, that the Russians are
really preparing for war right now?
HEAPPEY: Absolutely. I mean, this is an enormous build-up of Russian troops, and they are positioning themselves in parts of Russia and Belarus
that would suggest that it`s not just an incursion into the Donbas that they`re planning, but that they`re seeking to threaten Kiev as well.
GORANI: OK, so if that happens, then what should the response be of NATO countries, of EU countries? I know that military equipment and weaponry has
been sent to reinforce Ukraine`s military, but there`s no plan to send in troops, to fight alongside Ukrainians. Will it be enough to defend Ukraine
against the Russians?
HEAPPEY: Well, look, I mean, this in itself is an important point for Mr. Putin to hear that Ukraine is not in NATO. There is not western troops
building up in Ukraine. He is making this stuff up when he tells the Russian people that NATO is being expansionists. Ukraine doesn`t need NATO
troops to defend itself. Ukraine is a proud, sovereign nation, and when I was in Kiev last Thursday, I was absolutely clear.
I looked in the eye of a number of my interlocutors and their MOD, and to the very core of their being, they know that they will fight. And that is
the second bit that I think Mr. Putin is being misled over by his advisors. This will not be bloodless. It will not be quick. It will not be easy. The
prime minister is warning and the president of the United States is warning that this will be bloody and that tens of thousands of Russians and
Ukrainians will die is unfortunately true.
And I think everybody needs to have that in mind and give the diplomacy more of a chance before --
GORANI: So --
HEAPPEY: Sorry --
GORANI: Get that -- I get that, I was just going to say, what can still avert this? Because from your perspective, it seems that this build-up on
more than one border of Russian troops and military equipment around Ukraine means that Vladimir Putin is not just using this as leverage to get
more diplomatically. That there is a real plan for an invasion here. What could still avert a full-scale war?
HEAPPEY: Well, Putin. And that is what it comes down to. It is down to --
GORANI: But what does he need to hear? What does he need to hear?
HEAPPEY: Level -- well, I think he needs to hear what I`ve been saying. You know, that he is -- and it`s simply not true that NATO is expanding
into Ukraine. That hasn`t happened. It is not true that the Ukrainian people are desperate to be liberated by Russia and to sort of return to the
Russian sphere. They are a sovereign nation in their own right. And you know, this is just, I think, Putin acting out something that he has long
believed, let`s say last year, set out what he believes is Russia`s sovereign claim --
GORANI: Yes --
HEAPPEY: To Ukrainian territory. This is something that he and he alone needs to decide on. And everybody needs to be clear with him that he is to
decide against doing this. The slightly economic sanctions that the rest of the world would impose will be formidable. The loss of Russian life that
will be caused is incredible, because the Ukrainians will stand their ground, and this is just an unnecessary build-up of troops that could
easily lead to something that makes Chechnya look easy. And that is --
GORANI: Well --
HEAPPEY: Something that the Russian people and the Russian government should be very concerned over.
GORANI: And we know Chechnya, the two wars in Chechnya were absolutely devastating. But what -- I mean, apart from economic sanctions, apart from
reinforcing NATO`s military with the shipment of -- for instance, Britain has sent light anti-tank weaponry, et cetera. Is there any other plan?
Because from Vladimir Putin`s calculation, in 2014, he annexed the whole of Crimea. There wasn`t much reaction really from western countries, perhaps
he sees Ukraine, and we know he sees in his global view, Ukraine as part of the greater historic Russia.
If really the only -- the only sanction against him will be further economic sanctions, perhaps Vladimir Putin`s calculation is, this could be
HEAPPEY: Well, I hope not. Because I would hope that he has higher regard for the lives of the brave Russian men and women who sign up to serve in
their nation`s armed forces. Now, as a former soldier, I respect the courage of anybody that puts on uniform to serve, whether they be in the
army of an adversary or an ally. I would just hope that Putin respects the fact that they haven`t signed up to be thrown into a horrendously bloody
war simply to satisfy his own personal ambitions.
There is -- you know, there is no -- there is nothing that the west can do to -- that is anywhere near as powerful as Putin just reflecting that this
is not a good use of Russian life. This is not --
GORANI: Let me --
HEAPPEY: Something that will be easy and bloodless, as I fear he believes.
GORANI: Let me ask you just one last question because war is not always conventional. It`s hybrid. It can -- it can -- it can target computer and
information systems. And the U.K. believes as well that Russia could be plotting a coup within Ukraine, even naming an MP Yevhen Murayev who says
these claims are absolutely stupid to install a pro-Kremlin leader that would be sympathetic to a Russian troop occupation. This is based on
Intelligence I presume, that the U.K. has gathered.
HEAPPEY: Well, look, I mean, I think that what you see across the whole of the former Soviet bloc is that Russia is making the former Soviet countries
pay the price for the -- for the dissolution of the Soviet Union 20 years, 30 years hence. And whether that`d be through military incursion or whether
it be through political instability, disinformation, misinformation, interference with democratic processes, it`s clear that, that is how the
Kremlin wants to do its business.
Now, I think that the threats of interference in Ukrainian civil society and public discourse to such a degree that a change of government to more
to the Kremlin`s liking becomes an option, is actually just as insidious as the threat of military action. Actually, what`s required is for the Kremlin
to respect the sovereignty of Ukraine. It is a proud, courageous nation in its own right, and I have every belief that they will stand their ground.
GORANI: James Heappey, thanks very much, Minister for the Armed Forces at the MOD here in the U.K. Appreciate your time this evening on CNN. As we
HEAPPEY: Thank you --
GORANI: To follow the rising tension between Russia and the west over Ukraine. We`ll have more, by the way, of our discussion a little bit later
with an EU foreign policy official. Now, let`s talk about COVID because we`ve been in this COVID global nightmare for two years now, and finally,
hopeful and encouraging words today from the World Health Organization`s regional director for Europe.
Dr. Hans Kluge says the emergency phase of the pandemic could end by the end of this year. He sat down with CNN to explain why he thinks COVID could
not end, but recede pretty soon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANS KLUGE, REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR EUROPE, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: There is absolutely light at the end of the tunnel. Important that the pandemic
is not over, but that three things coming together in European region. The first one is that once that the Omicron variant subsides, there will be a
large capital of immunity, be it essentially, the vaccine or due to infection. The second is that Winter seasonality will have a pulse, and the
third one is that we know that the Omicron variant is milder in the boosted individual.
Which means that for some weeks or months, there will be tranquility and the governments and the people can prepare to get out of the acute phase.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: OK, let`s dig a bit deeper into why there are hopeful signs. Joining me now is CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. So,
what can we read into this language from the World Health Organization?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we want to be careful here, because making predictions when it comes to COVID is really
dangerous. When I listened to what the W.H.O. doctor had to say, what I took away from it was, there is a chance here that things are going to get
better. We are not out of the woods yet. We are still in a pandemic. But we -- there is a chance here that things could turn a corner.
But he did say, and I`m going to quote him now. He said "it is almost a given that new COVID-19 variants will emerge and return." So what if, God
forbid, we get a variant that is as transmissible as Omicron, but as dangerous, as virulent as Delta? Oh, my goodness, that would obviously not
be a good thing. We all hope that won`t happen. But what I hear him saying is, it is possible, so we need to remain vigilant.
So, let`s look at a list of things that he said would need to happen in case that another variant did sort of, you know, roar its ugly head. So,
first of all, he said, we need to have strong surveillance for variants. In some countries, the surveillance is excellent, in other countries, not so
excellent. Also, we need to have high vaccine uptake which includes third doses, and that includes vaccine equity. It doesn`t really help so much if
it`s only in rich countries that we have vaccines, they need to be everywhere.
Also equitable access to antivirals. In other words, to get the virus when someone gets infected to help treat them super early, and also shielding
high risk groups. He also mentioned targeted testing. So he said that all of those things would need to happen to prevent another wave. Hala?
GORANI: Right. And what would normalization look like? I mean, we`re seeing already travel restrictions being dropped in Europe, et cetera. What
would -- because obviously, we -- I think there`s a realization we can`t be locked down for much longer. Do we have to learn to live with this virus
COHEN: Well, you know, I think to be clear, where, you know, most of the world is not really locked down right now. As you mentioned, travel
restrictions have been eased, children are back in school. So we`re not -- you know, when we talk about lockdown, I think of that as sort of more a
2020 and 2021, and not even all of 2021. So now if we`re in kind of a sort of a medium kind of area, what does it look like moving forward?
It is possible that masks could be -- it could be more common. It is possible that if this is, indeed, endemic, and it comes back let`s say
every Winter, that we`re going to see some recommendations to wear masks in certain circumstances. That`s possible. It could also be possible that
we`re going to see more vaccine mandates. That`s another thing.
There might also be advice to do social distancing. So, in other words, there might be advice to do the relatively easy things, social distancing
while not great, it`s not that hard. Masking, not that hard. That might be our ticket out of this in the future. Hala?
GORANI: All right, it`s the not-so-hard things that people aren`t doing as often as I`d like them to --
COHEN: That`s a good point --
GORANI: Doing it.
Thank you so much, Elizabeth Cohen.
COHEN: That`s a good point.
GORANI: Still -- yes --
COHEN: Thanks --
GORANI: Still to come tonight, we`re keeping an eye on markets for you, they have been majorly down today. Here`s a live look at the Dow. A little
later we`ll take you to New York for what`s behind this latest selloff. And also I told you at the top of the hour, Burkina Faso`s military says it has
taken control of the country. The latest on the fast-moving uprising in the West African nation is ahead.
GORANI: Returning now to our top story, the EU`s Foreign Affairs chief is leading calls for calm today over the Ukraine crisis. But he says the bloc
is prepared should diplomacy fail. Josep Borrell joins me now live from Brussels, he`s also the vice president of the European Commission, thanks
for joining us, sir. First of all, let me ask you about why EU diplomats are not being called back from Ukraine. The Americans have called back non-
essential staff, so have the Brits. Is that because your assessment is that war is less of a possibility?
JOSEP BORRELL, FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF, EUROPEAN UNION: We don`t see a reason to bringing back our diplomats home.
GORANI: You don`t see a reason?
BORRELL: Not at the moment.
GORANI: So, you spoke with Tony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State. Did he give you a reason?
BORRELL: Well, the U.S. has not -- is not evacuating people. It just said that the non-critical staff that want to leave, they can leave, and it`s up
to them to decide that.
GORANI: Yes --
BORRELL: But we don`t see the need to tell our non-critical staff if you want to leave, you can leave.
GORANI: What do you think the risk of war is at this stage?
BORRELL: Look, we have engaged in diplomacy. We`re engaged in trying to de-escalate.
And we`re going to make some guesses about the risk reward. Certainly, there is a threat. We have to face this threat, but now our job is to avoid
that. You work hard --
GORANI: Yes --
BORRELL: You put pressure on Russia to continue engaging constructively in establishing mechanism in the framework overseas, to talk with NATO. This
is our job. Our job is not to speculate about the war, but to build peace.
GORANI: I understand that. But you`re seeing the troop movements, you`re seeing how Russia is amassing troops and military equipment on more than
one Ukrainian border. That has to be a huge cause for concern today versus even just a few weeks ago, the picture is quite different.
BORRELL: Yes, certainly. There is a threat when someone amasses more than 100,000 troops with heavy arms along the border of a country and support
it, they don`t go there to take tea or to have coffee, they`re there for some reason. And this reason can be considered a threat, the Ukrainians can
see the threat, we can see the threat. The threat to use force, and in these occasions, that`s what diplomacy intervenes.
GORANI: Yes --
BORRELL: And that`s what --
GORANI: How do you --
BORRELL: We are doing?
GORANI: Right, so what are you doing?
GORANI: Yes, talking about what? What do you -- what do you think will get to Putin? He`s the one ultimately who pulls the trigger or not.
BORRELL: Well, talking about the request that Russia has presented to the U.S. and to NATO. Russia wants to ensure, they say their security. Well, if
they want to talk about their security, they can talk with whoever they want. But, in fact, what they are talking is about the structure of
security in Europe. And that`s what we are talking with the U.S. and with NATO, who are interlocutors with Russia, presenting European view.
And they`re saying that we have to continue talking. Now, we are writing more than talking, because the Russians requested that with an answer with
the U.S. and NATO. And once they get the answer, let`s see what is their reaction.
GORANI: So what would the EU role be here? Do you think sanctions are enough to deter Vladimir Putin here? What -- I know they want security
assurances, but among those security assurances, are a guarantee that NATO will not expand to include Ukraine. And the west has already said this is
off of the table. So what else can you say to Russia that will convince them that NATO and the west will not continue to expand closer to their
borders? Vladimir Putin sees this as a major security threat to himself and his country.
BORRELL: Look, the diplomacy failed, and we are working for this not happening, but if diplomacy fails, then we are very well advanced, and the
preparations are a response to any kind of potential Russian aggression -- through measures, we certainly have sanctions. Not us, only us, but in
coordination with our like-minded partners with the U.S., with the U.K. and with Canada. And believe me, the measures will have a strong -- we expect
they will have a strong deterring capacity. But now we are in the dissuasion mode.
And that`s why we`re having bilateral talks with the U.S. Bilateral talks with the U.S. and NATO and also with OC in the framework of what is called
Normandy, France, and Germany, and I think that all these context of this diplomatic efforts should avoid a war.
GORANI: You think that this diplomatic effort should avoid a war? These are critical days. You`re saying you`re writing more than you`re talking
because you are going to be submitting to Russia a written proposal that you hope will convince the leaders of that country that their security is
not at risk from any kind of NATO action or the presence of western troops. What is the timeline for that?
BORRELL: I don`t know. It`s -- the answer will be sent by the U.S. and by NATO after consultation with us. We are in the process of consultation,
what kind of answer has to be addressed to the Russian request. And then the Russians will have to decide what to do in front of this answer. But
certainly, I am sure that he`s not going to say OK, I am very happy with the answer.
The game is over. No. I suppose negotiation will continue, because you know, in this cases, nothing is black or white. There is a lot of things to
discuss, but the required text, they will have a text.
GORANI: Understood. When you go to sleep at night, are you more worried now than you were a few days ago? Or are you in the same state? Do you have
BORRELL: You know, I am concerned. I am always concerned. I use the word concern a lot in my job. I say I am concerned every --
GORANI: Diplomats do usually.
BORRELL: Yes. I would say that three or four times a day.
BORRELL: But certainly, I have reasons to be concern. But I don`t want to go in a nervous attack.
GORANI: You don`t want a nervous attack. Joseph Borrell, thank you very much. The E.U. and E.U. Foreign Policy Representative, the Vice President
of the European Commission, thank you so much for joining us on CNN this evening.
BORRELL: Thank you.
GORANI: We`re going to take a quick break. We`ll be right back.
GORANI: More now on the mounting tension between Russia and the West over Ukraine. Moments ago, John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesperson was answering
some questions about the U.S.`s position on this. Let`s listen in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We remain keenly focused on Russia`s unusual military activities near the Ukrainian border, including in
Belarus, and consulting extensively with our transatlantic allies and partners. The department continues to support diplomatic efforts to
deescalate the situation.
Now, as the President has said, even as we continue to prioritize diplomacy and dialogue, we must also increase readiness. In support of its
obligations to the security and defense of NATO and the security of its citizens abroad, at the direction of the President and following
recommendations made by Secretary Austin, The United States has taken steps to heighten the readiness of its forces at home and abroad so they are
prepared to respond to a range of contingencies, including support to the NATO Response Force if it is activated.
As you have heard me describe many times, our commitment to the security of NATO allies and our Article 5 commitment are ironclad. As the President has
also made clear, the United States will act firmly in defense of its national interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us, our
allies, or partners. As part of that commitment, the Department of Defense maintains significant combat capable forces forward in Europe to deter
aggression and enhance the Alliance`s ability to defend allies and defeat aggression if necessary.
The United States also has a commitment to provide forces to the NATO Response Force, or otherwise known as the NRF. Any event that NATO should
activate that construct, as you may know, the NRF is a multinational force made up of land, air, maritime and special operations forces, all
components that the alliance can deploy on short notice, wherever needed.
All together, the NRF comprises around 40,000 multinational troops. Within the NRF is something called the very high readiness Joint Task Force, or
VJTF. This NRF element, which is about 20,000 strong across all domains, includes a multinational land brigade of around 5,000 Troops, and air
maritime and special operation forces components.
I want to provide some facts on these preparations that will reinforce our commitment to NATO and to the NATO Response Force and increase our
readiness. Secretary Austin has placed a range of units in the United States on a heightened preparedness to deploy, which increases our
readiness to provide forces if NATO should activate the NRF or if other situations developed, all tolled.
The number of forces that the Secretary has placed on heightened alert comes up to about 8,500 personnel. We`ll continue to provide updates in
coming days about these decisions. But specifically, this will ensure that the United States and our commitment to the NRF has -- is consistent with
their readiness for rapid deployment. Again, if activated.
In the event of NATO`s activation of the NRF or a deteriorating security environment, the United States would be in a position to rapidly deploy
additional Brigade Combat Teams, logistics, medical, aviation, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, transportation, and
additional capabilities into Europe.
Again, I want to reinforce that as of now, the decision has been made to put these units on higher alert and higher alert only. No decisions have
been made to deploy any forces from the United States at this time. And when I say heightened alert, in some cases, some of these forces were
already on a heightened posture, readiness to deploy posture. And the Secretary decided to make it even more shortened to tether even more. So in
some cases, units would go from, say, 10 days prepared to deploy. Now they`re at five days.
That`s not the case for every unit that is being notified that they are in a heightened alert. Some are simply more ready and postured that way than
others. The idea, though, is that all of these units that he is putting on prepare to deploy will be ready to go on a shortened timeframe.
Again, no final decision has been made to deploy them. The Secretary will continue to consult with the President and the United States will maintain
close coordination with allies and partners, as we continuously review our force posture and make decisions regarding movement of forces into and
As always, we will remain in close coordination with allies and partners as well as NATO and other multilateral organizations as we continue to review
our force posture as we make decisions regarding potential movements of forces into Europe. And as we review the disposition of U.S. forces on the
And with that, we`ll start taking questions. Bob, I think you are on the line. Yes?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, thank you, John. Of that 8,500 troops that you`ve mentioned, are those U.S.-based only? And would they -- are they intended
only for deployment as part of the activation of the rapid response force, or might they be set for other reinforcement purposes in Eastern Europe?
And lastly, why did the Secretary -- the President decide to do this now? What -- what`s changed just in the last few days, since on Friday, you
mentioned, as you had many times for, that the U.S. was prepared to reinforce in Eastern Europe, if there were a Russian incursion only.
I think I`ve remembered all three so let me try. First, yes, the -- up to 8,500. And I want to stress, it`s up to 8,500. Again, no decisions to
deploy had been made. So this is about getting units on advanced, heightened alert, that doesn`t mean they`re necessarily going anywhere. But
of the up to 8,500 that I talked about, they are all U.S.-based. As -- and I`m sorry. Bob, your second question was?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are they intended only for the NATO Rapid Response Force? Or could they perform other reinforcement functions?
KIRBY: The bulk of them are intended for the NATO Response Force that the vast majority of, but as I also said in my opening statement, the Secretary
wants us postured to be ready for any other contingencies as well, but the bulk of them are aligned for the NATO Response Force.
And then your third question was on timing. I think, you know, we`ve been watching this very, very closely. I also said that right at the top, it`s
very clear that the Russians have no intention right now of deescalating. And because not every one of these units that we are notifying are in --
all of them are not in a heightened state of alert, it made prudent sense for the Secretary to want to give them as much time to prepare to be on a
shorter together as he can just in case, again, I want to stress, particularly with the NATO Response Force, it has not been activated, it is
a NATO call to make.
But we have contributions to that response force, as do other nations. You know, as I said, it`s 40,000, some odd strong, our contributions don`t come
near the 40,000 number, other nations are going to have to contribute as well. But for our part, unilaterally, we wanted to make sure that we were
ready in case that call should come. And that means making sure that units that would contribute to it are as ready as they can be on a shorter notice
as possible. Barb.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is -- three quick things, what specific military capabilities do these U.S. troops bring to Europe, these 8,500? Second,
could you say with some specificity what is the exact mission for these troops? And what will your measure of success be? How will you know when
the mission is accomplished?
KIRBY: Yes, so on capabilities, Barb, I touched this in the opening statement. Again, when we are able to identify the units for you, we`ll do
that. The reason why I don`t have specific units today is because the units are being notified as well as family members. And I think you can
understand, we wouldn`t want to get out ahead of that notification process.
But broadly speaking, as I mentioned, at the top, I mean, these would be additional Brigade Combat Teams, logistics, personnel, medical support,
aviation support, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, as well as transportation, and maybe even some additional capabilities after that.
Again, when we can identify for you the units, I think you`ll see that they kind of cover the broad scope of those capabilities. Missions haven`t been
assigned. I mean, the ready response force hasn`t been hasn`t been activated. And so there`s not a mission, per se. This is about the
secretary wanting to get ahead of the potential activation and making sure that these units have the time to prepare, if and only if they`re deployed.
And then you had when -- when we, you know, success, again, that hasn`t -- there`s been no activation. So there`s been no mission assigned. So it`s
very difficult for me to give you an up check or a down check on, you know, on what equates success. What this is about, though, is reassurance to our
NATO allies. And we`ve been talking about that for quite some time, that we`re going to be ready, we`re going to be prepared to help bolster our
allies with capabilities they might need. And we`re going to do this in lockstep with them and with the Alliance.
This is really about reassuring the Eastern Flank of NATO. And it`s also about -- and I kind of covered this too, Barb, back to your question of
success, it`s proving how seriously the United States takes our commitment to NATO and to the Article 5 commitment inside NATO.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How will you know when your military goals are achieved?
KIRBY: Again, Barb, there`s been no mission assigned right now. This is about getting troops ready. And back to what we`re trying to achieve is a
couple of things. Obviously, we still would like to deter Vladimir Putin and the Russians from another incursion, number one.
Number two, it`s to make sure that we`re bolstering and staying unified with the Alliance, that the alliance stays strong and so the large -- bulk
of the reason for this prepare -- these prepared to deploy orders is really to make sure that we`re ready to bolster the NATO alliance and to prove the
solidarity of the Alliance.
Those are the two sort of big outcomes here. But again, no mission has been assigned to these troops, no deployment orders have been sent to them. What
the Secretary has ordered them to do is to be ready to go, in some cases on a much shorter tether than what they had before. Jen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John, can you rule out sending U.S. troops to Ukraine?
KIRBY: That is -- I think the President has already spoken to that. As you know, Jen, we already do have advisors and some trainers in Ukraine. They
are still there at their work.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So if you`re not willing to send troops to Ukraine, what makes you think that this is going to deter Vladimir Putin?
KIRBY: I think there`s a whole package of things that the administration is looking at to try to deter Vladimir Putin from another incursion, including
very severe economic consequences. This is about sending a strong message that we`re committed to NATO. And we`re committed to assuring that our
allies have the capabilities they need in case they need to defend themselves.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you need a new AUMF to send these troops to -- these 8,500 --
KIRBY: I`m not aware of any such requirement at this point. And again, we have longstanding commitment to the NATO Response Force. We are just one of
many nations that will contribute to it. This is very much in keeping with the policies and procedures that have been laid down for activation of the
NRF. Again, if it`s activated, and it has not been. David.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John, would these 8,500 ground forces, would they go to the Eastern flank? And have you put any units in Europe?
KIRBY: I -- so I think, again, yes, I think the bulk of them would be considered ground forces, David. The -- as for Europe, the -- as I`ve said
before, there are lots of force capabilities already on the European continent, under General Walters, and I`m absolutely not ruling out the
possibility that there will be intratheater moves as well, inside Europe, to bolster NATO allies on the Eastern flank.
And that kind of gets at your second question, which is, we`re still in consultation with the allies about what they might need. And so I don`t
have any decisions to read out in terms of specific locations. But we certainly have made it clear to the Eastern flank allies that we`re
prepared to bolster their capabilities if they need it.
Again, I want to go back to a core foundation here. The bulk of the troops I`m talking about today are intended for the NATO Response Force, the vast
majority of them, and that response force can only be activated by the Alliance, it hasn`t been. It is our contribution to the response force, and
we want to make sure that they`re ready to go. I think it`s really important to keep remembering that. No deployment orders have been sent. No
missions have been assigned. This is really about getting folks ready to go in case they`re needed. Courtney.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So the ones that wouldn`t be assigned to the NATO Response Force, they would be going in unilaterally on behalf of the United
States to some neighbors, right? Can you give us any number? How many that would be?
KIRBY: Yes, I can`t do that right now, Courtney, but I mean, it could -- it depends on -- it really depends on the need. And we`re still in
consultation with allies about needs. So I really would be reticent to give you a hard number right now. But we are in active discussions with our
allies about any additional capabilities they might need on top of or outside of the NATO Response Force.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does that include some of these intratheater moves that you`re talking about?
KIRBY: It could. It could.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Those -- so those -- so there could be movement within EUCOM U.S. troops that are moved for -- that -- going to NATO allies, that
would not be part of the NATO Response Force.
KIRBY: Yes, ma`am.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.
KIRBY: That is right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for that. Has there been any consideration or decision about pulling U.S. troops out of Ukraine as the State
Department made the decision to pull some Americans out?
KIRBY: There`s been no decisions about moving our trainers that are in Ukraine out. But as I said many times, we`re constantly looking at the
situation. We`re going to do what`s right for their safety and security that`s paramount to us.
But as of right now, they are still on the ground in Ukraine, conducting their advice and assist missions. And obviously, if that changes, we`ll
certainly -- we will certainly let you know.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They haven`t changed their number, right? The footprint remains exactly the same?
KIRBY: Exactly the same. Yes, ma`am. Let me go to some of the -- on the phone. I know there`s lots of questions here. We`ll get to them all. Jared
Szuba from Al-Monitor.
JARED SZUBA, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT, AL-MONITOR: Hi, Mr. Kirby. CENTCOM just put out a statement about the ballistic missile attack on the United
Arab Emirates saying that the U.S. patriot missile systems at Al Dhafra airbase engaged. Is the department treating this as a potential attack on
U.S. forces? Or was this just done to assist Emirati partners? Can you give us more detail on that?
KIRBY: Well, look, I don`t want to get into intelligence assessments. I mean, this was -- obviously, this just happened early Monday morning. So
clearly, we have troops at Al Dhafra so we are certainly going to be looking into the possibility that this was directed at our forces. We
obviously take that seriously. You`ve seen the CENTCOM statement. We responded to the attack, this ballistic missile attack. And we`ll be in
close coordination with our Emirati partners as we continue to assess what happened and what we might need to do going forward.
But I don`t have a -- I can`t specifically tell you what the intent of the attack was. But we have to assume. I mean, it would be foolish for us not
to assume that there that there was a threat to our people. And as you saw from the results, we took that threat seriously. (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, thank you, John. I have a quick question about China. The U.S. Navy is now operating two carrier strike groups in the
Western Pacific. And they recently conducted a large scale military exercise in Japan. Is this a message to --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: All right. John Kirby, the Pentagon Press Secretary, they`re updating reporters on what the United States is doing amid these rising
tensions between Russia and Western countries, NATO and the E.U. over Ukraine. John Kirby announced that the US has put 8,500 American troops on
the heightened alert to deploy if needed to respond to a NATO request, NATO Rapid Response Force request, but they are not being deployed. They are
just on standby. Matthew Chance is live in Kiev with more on what we`re hearing from the Americans. I also spoke to the E.U. Foreign Policy Chief
who still sounded, or at least told me, that he was hopeful that there could be some sort of diplomatic solution to this problem. What are you
hearing from Ukraine?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think probably Ukraine agrees with that assessment, not least because, you know,
there are written documents, written responses expected back to the Kremlin, from NATO, and from the United States, to the demands that were
made by Moscow last week about the end of NATO expansion, and the drawback of military forces inside NATO countries that joined the alliance after the
fall of the Soviet Union.
So all these kind of European security concerns that they`ve expressed their problem with, and those documents, those responses are likely to form
the basis of further negotiations going forward. You know, that`s the kind of granular way in which I think the Russian diplomacy is expecting to
work. And so we do have potentially weeks of diplomacy ahead of us before we reach a conclusion of that, before the diplomacy comes to an end.
In terms of what the Ukrainian government also think, well, they`ve been quite critical, actually, of the United States` position, which is to, you
know, downsize its embassy essentially or to move non-essential staff out and to order the evacuation of family members. There are four countries
they`ve said today in the -- in Ukraine, United States, Britain, Germany, and Australia that have ordered their embassies to be downsized in sum.
But there are countries that have taken no action at all. And what the Ukrainian foreign minister said is that, you know, downsizing now is
premature, there`s not a sense of crisis. It`s an overreaction. And they`ve been, I think, quite critical of the U.S. decision to go down that path.
GORANI: So there sounds -- it sounds like from what you`re saying that there is at least some hope that if war is on the horizon, it`s not
imminent, even though the American and British actions of, you know, sending home their non-critical personnel seems to suggest that their
concern is that something could happen quickly?
CHANCE: Well, I mean, look, the Americans said it was out of an abundance of caution. The Ukrainians have said, look, there`s nothing that`s changing
the security situation that would that would necessitate this kind of immediate action. But there is definitely a difference of opinion between
the Ukrainians and the United States on this issue of how imminent any invasion might be.
I mean from the intelligence that we`ve been shown from what the United States say, you know, they are saying this is something that could happen
at any moment, Ukrainians taking a much more laid back approach saying, you know, stay calm. It`s not on the horizon as far as we`re concerned.
GORANI: Thank you, Matthew Chance live in Kiev.
Breaking news now, members of Burkina Faso`s military say they`ve taken control of the West African nation and an announcement on state TV, they
declared that the military -- there you have it, it`s pretty clear who`s in charge, that they are in charge. The whereabouts of the president are not
known, though some of the soldiers taking part in the coup told CNN he`s being held in a safe place.
A car that is part of the presidential fleet was found with numerous bullet holes and blood inside the vehicle. So what is going on? Let`s bring in CNN
Stephanie Busari for more on this breaking story. What can you tell us?
STEPHANIE BUSARI, CNN DIGITAL SUPERVISING EDITOR, AFRICA: Hala, so I mean, the military have made it clear that they are in charge, they`ve announced
that the government has been dissolved. Land and air borders closed, and also a curfew imposed on this tiny West African nation.
Now the land and air boarders being closed has implications for the country`s national football team, which is currently playing in the Africa
Cup of Nations tournament in nearby Cameroon. So it remains to be seen what will happen to them. When they get knocked out, will they be able to go
But as you mentioned, the President has not been seen since this happened in the early hours of Monday morning. And he`s sent tweets earlier from his
verified Twitter account. But it`s not known if it was really him sending those tweets, or if he was indeed coerced to send these messages saying
that -- asking them to consider the higher interests of the nation and lay down their arms.
So this coup attempt, this coup takeover is not coming out of the blue. President Roch Kabor was not very popular because of the jihadist attacks
that were taking place in the country, Hala.
GORANI: All right, Stephanie Busari. Thanks very much. We`ll keep an eye on that story. There`s more breaking news before I leave you this hour.
A spokesperson for the British Prime Minister is acknowledging that Boris Johnson celebrated his birthday at 10 Downing Street in June 2020. While
the country was in its first lockdown, this is just the latest in a string of revelations of parties during that time that have fueled calls for Mr.
Johnson to resign. It`s his own birthday, so presumably he was there. Much more on this in the hours ahead.
Thanks for watching. Stay with CNN, I`m Hala Gorani and "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is coming your way next.