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Hala Gorani Tonight
Putin To Recognize Two Ukrainian Separatist Regions; Putin: Ukraine Joining NATO Is A Threat To Russian Security; E.U. Leaders Warned Russia Not To Recognize Separatist Regions; Nord Stream 2; Vladimir Putin; Putin Signs Decree To Recognize Ukrainian Separatist Region; Borrell Threatens Sanctions If Russia Recognizes Separatist Area. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired February 21, 2022 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT, RUSSIA (through translator): That Ukraine has never had a consistent tradition of being a true nation. So, they
eventually started copying various foreign models which are not rooted in their culture and history. They were constantly seeking their greedy
interest which had nothing to do with the interest of the Ukrainian people. They speak of the pro-western civilized choice of the Ukrainian people.
However, it's not based on building better conditions for the people. But to meet demands and requirements of the West, and to hide those billions of
money that they stole from various businesses. Various authorities and oligarchs in Ukraine would come to power only on the populistic ideas, and
here we're talking even about the Donbas region. But as soon as they would receive their post, they would go back on their pre-election promises and
would follow various radical ideas.
And they would go back on the promises to support those people who voted for them. Two official languages in cooperation with Russia. And saying
that they won't be like radical state, will not use the force, but the radicals have become more brutal, and their claims have become severe, and
then eventually they were able to come to power and increase corruption in Ukraine, and they would bring their own greedy interests and forget about
the interests of the Ukrainian people.
So the stable nationality and the stable country has not been experienced by Ukraine. Everybody wishes into the various oligarchs and their clans
were interested in their business and dividing various fields of Russia. So when radicals have used the unsatisfaction of the Ukrainian people, and
brought Ukraine to the coup de'tat, and they were constantly receiving state support or governmental support from Kyiv and the U.S. Embassy.
We talked about the $1 million per day, and certainly, those great amounts of money were directly wired to their personal accounts. And how many
people truly suffered there on the -- mark on this election, Sunday, Independence Square and streets of Kyiv? The radicals who came to power --
ELENI GIOKOS, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Right, so there you have live pictures from Moscow where President Vladimir Putin was addressing the
nation, and I've got to emphasize, this was a message to the Russian people, really giving a lot of history here, and basically talking about
how nostalgic it was about the former USSR and talking about Lenin and saying that his reforms to declare non-Russian countries as independent
states is now something that is burdening Russia.
Talking about Ukraine and also saying -- and this is the breaking news here, that the two states in the Ukraine that are led by separatists will
be recognized by Russia as independent states. We will be covering his comments throughout the next few hours, but for now though, I'm going to
cross over to our colleagues in the United States.
GIOKOS: With Vladimir Putin, the president is addressing his nation. Let's take a listen.
PUTIN: To have other international armed forces in this territory. However, it seems like there's a way to go about this, and then in Kyiv,
they've already announced the strategic path towards the integration with night, of course. Every country has the right to choose, and everything
would be all right if not one part. The international documents speak about the equal and divisible security. Which says that you cannot enforce your
security at the expense of security of other countries.
Even if you talk about OSC charge of '89 from Istanbul. In other words, the choice of security should not pose a threat of security to other countries.
Ukraine joining NATO is a direct threat to Russia's security. And then in 2018 in Bucharest, USA moved on with their decision that Ukraine together
with Georgia will become NATO members. And everybody already back then understood the risks of this decision.
However, they kind of agreed to the decision of the old and bigger partner. And some of the NATO countries are still skeptical about the Ukraine's
membership, and there are some signals, so, we are getting there, saying, well, this is not going to happen tomorrow.
Even -- oh, yes, partners are talking about this, and we say OK, not tomorrow, then maybe day after tomorrow. How is it going to change anything
in the historical perspective? Nothing. In reality, nothing more over. We know the position of the U.S. government, that their active military
actions do not exclude the possibility of Ukraine's entering NATO if it meets its requirements and conquers corruption.
And over and over again, they're trying to persuade us that NATO is just a peaceful organization, not a threat to Russia. And they make us to believe
them, take them at their word. But we know the cost of those words, because in 1990, when we were talking about the uniting Germany, we were promised
there will not be any NATO movement, not an inch to east. And that I'm just quoting. They promised us.
GIOKOS: All right, that's Vladimir Putin. That's Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia addressing his nation, and I've got Nic Robertson
standing by in Moscow for us. Nic, I know that you've been watching this and listening to the historical context he was giving. Talking about the
former Russia as -- in a very nostalgic manner, even talking about Lenin's reforms that allowed non-Russian countries independence, and saying that
Ukraine was always part of Russia, and then extending that statement further beyond -- I'm talking about the Baltic nations.
What's really fascinating here is that, you get a real sense of his thoughts and perhaps the underlying cause of his intentions, and then
importantly, that he will be recognizing those Ukrainian states as independent states because they're run by separatists. Nic, tell me what
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, we're getting up to some more recent stuff, obviously, Putin has been giving a very long
history lesson in his view that Ukraine is part of Russia, historically part of Russia. The mistakes that allowed it to be where it is where
previous mistakes by previous leaders that should never have been allowed to happen.
But now, we're getting to sort of, again, some of the crux of his more recent criticisms, and that is of the United States saying that well, the
United States may not allow Ukraine to join just today because of the issues of corruption in the country, and NATO requirement, obviously, that
a country must, you know, have a clean finance system to become a member of NATO.
But Putin indicating we can't take the United States at its word. A few years may go by, and the United States would say yes, Ukraine can become a
member of NATO. One of the key points that Putin has been trying to put across earlier today, and again now is that, Ukraine becoming a member of
NATO increases the threat to Russia. And he said that because Russia in 2014 annexed Crimea, and it's never been recognized internationally.
It's Ukrainian sovereign territory, but Russia still occupies it, has even built a bridge from Penza, Russia, on to it, has military bases. Had a
referendum there to essentially, you know, rubber-stamp what it had already done militarily. But what Putin says is that if Ukraine joins NATO, Ukraine
has a claim on Crimea, it would try to retake Crimea, which would pull NATO in behind it, and then Russia would be at war with the whole of NATO.
And for Russia, the Naval bases on the peninsula of Crimea are of vital importance. They're warm water ports. And this seems to be something that
Putin is prepared to go to the wall over. Earlier, he sort of hinted that, well, if you give me Crimea, then I can sort of back down my position
But now he's sort of perhaps creating the context here, not only for -- not only for recognizing these eastern pro-Russian Ukrainians as a separatist
state or two separatist republics, Donetsk and Luhansk, but potentially for slicing off more of Ukraine to give him a land corridor, a land bridge that
people talk about, to the Crimea, to secure that, and perhaps then, then he can come into talks with the West.
But it's not quite clear where it's going. He's certainly laying out what could potentially be a very Maximalist position, laying historical claim to
the whole of Crimea. What he's actually going to say at the end of it, we don't know. We do know that before he took this move, he did call the
French president, he did call the German chancellor and told them of his decision.
They both said the decision was regrettable, but they would carry on talking to him which is perhaps instructive because until now, the
narrative from NATO members, European Union members, the United States is that if Putin puts troops into Ukraine, then the diplomatic road ends right
there. It immediately sanctions. So, do the Germans and French know something that Putin is going to lay out now that we don't know that may
allow these diplomatic channels to remain open?
It's very unclear, but the whole tone and demeanor of President Putin's lecture to the international community, to the nation this evening, speaks
to a far greater objective that is laid out before in a long paper last Summer, 20 pages long. But it does give an indication if not tonight when
he makes an announcement about the independence of these two republics, then legalistically or by other means, he will continue to try to achieve
those goals that he hasn't achieved through diplomacy.
And that after all, even a few days ago was his threat. What we don't get diplomatically, we will do through military technical measures. He's now
wading through essentially what are those technical measures.
GIOKOS: OK, we've got Alex Marquardt as well in Ukraine standing by for us, he's in Zaporizhzhia. Alex, give me a sense of how these statements,
this history lesson that we just heard Nic unpack for us is going to be taken by Ukraine. And, of course, reiterating that Ukraine joining NATO is
a risk to Russia, but we know that Ukraine doesn't even, you know, reach the standards to actually join NATO at this point in time. So, what do you
think is going to happen from the Ukraine side in terms of messaging here?
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, for starters, you know, President Zelensky has acknowledged that it could be quite some time
before Ukraine joins NATO. He has, of course, heard what the United States and others including the German chancellor who visited Moscow not too long
ago, have said about no real immediacy of Ukraine joining NATO. I think this is probably going to take Ukraine's leaders a bit by surprise in the
same way that, you know, all of us are now watching the speech that is going on 45 minutes to try to get a sense of what the culmination is here.
What we've heard from President Zelensky and others in the past few days as the U.S. and the rest of NATO have really ratcheted up the alarm about the
potential for Russia to invade at any given moment is this message of calm from President Zelensky, saying that they don't necessarily believe that
the Russian forces, despite the 150,000 strong number of troops that he doesn't necessarily believe that they plan to invade Ukraine, and even if
they did, that they couldn't do so in a large scale way.
They couldn't take Kyiv and hold Kyiv. At issue, in the most immediate term, Eleni, is these two break-away republics as they call themselves that
Nic was just talking about, Donetsk and Luhansk, which for all intents and purposes have been out of the reach of Ukraine for the past eight years.
They broke away eight years ago. They have been technically self governed, though extremely well supported by Russia.
Thousands of their citizens have gotten Russian citizenship, and so the question is, what is happening to them right now? You know, in advance of
this speech that Putin is still making, the Kremlin had said that there are plans to be a formal recognition of those territories. And so, what that
could mean in a very immediate sense is, Russian forces moving in. They could get called in by the leaders of those break-away provinces saying
we're under threat from Ukraine, therefore, we request Russian military help.
And so we could see Russian forces moving in quickly there. Then as Nic just touched on in the case of Crimea, we could see a referendum in which
case the citizens of those break-away republics then choose to join Russia. For now, Crimea is different than those break-away republics because they
have simply been backed by Russia, and again, in a significant way militarily and otherwise for the past eight years whereas Crimea very
quickly was annexed by Russia. But where we go from here is not clear.
The international community including Secretary of State Antony Blinken have promised swift consequences if Russia were to recognize these break-
away republics. But this could be just the first move that President Putin plans on making as my colleagues have been saying. This is a lengthy speech
in which he is complaining about Ukraine not necessarily being a legitimate country, talking about the ties between Russia and Ukraine.
And so we could see, given all the warnings that we've been hearing over the course of the past few days, a real threat to Ukraine beyond just these
two separatist enclaves, Eleni.
GIOKOS: All right. Alex Marquardt in Zaporizhzhia in Ukraine and Nick Robertson in Moscow for us. Thank you very much for that insight. We're
going to a short break. Stay with CNN.
GIOKOS: All across Europe, leaders warned Vladimir Putin not to recognize Ukraine's breakaway "Republics" today, but it apparently fell on deaf ears.
The E.U. Foreign Policy Chief says sanctions are on the table if he does. Let's get the latest now.
We've got Scott McLean in Brussels for us. And the warning about sanctions in fact, Scott, have been around for quite some time, Putin still needs to
sign the decree recognizing these two independent states but in his speech now to the nation, he says he plans to recognize them. What does this mean
in terms of activating the sanctions?
SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Eleni, this is very much a gut-check moment for the European Union. It will very much test the resolve and test
the unity that they've been talking about for the last couple of weeks in the face of what they described as Russian aggression.
It was only about an hour and a half ago that the E.U.'s top diplomat Josep Borrell was holding a press conference and he was talking about how the
E.U. was watching with particular interest and particular concern, this Russian Security Council meeting, where they were discussing the
possibility of recognizing these two breakaway groups in eastern Ukraine that are currently occupied by Russian backed separatists. And now that the
Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has indicated that he does plan to recognize them, well, it certainly changes the game.
So Josep Borrell was asked, or I should say up until this point the sanctions have really only been about, you know, what would happen if
Russia were to step into Ukrainian territory with military force. But now that Putin has made this declaration just an hour and a half ago, again,
before he said it, Josep Borrell was asked whether those sanctions could come sooner. And here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEP BORRELL, E.U. FOREIGN POLICE CHIEF: certainly, if there is an exception, it would be sanctions. And if there is a recognition, I will put
the sanction on the table and the ministers will decide.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCLEAN: So again, just to clarify, if there's annexation sanctions, period, end of story, if there was recognition, then well, you have this gray area
where you're going to let the foreign ministers from the European Union from all 27 member states have their say as to what happens next. We know
that this package of sanctions has already been prepared in advance and agreed upon by all of the European countries, it's just a matter of getting
their formal sign off if and when to go ahead and use those sanctions.
We just got a word from the Estonian -- the Estonian Prime Minister said that sanctions must now follow Putin's recognition of these two regions,
calling the recognition a clear pretext for expanding aggression further into Ukraine. We know a little bit just in the last 24 hours or so about
what this package of sanctions might actually entail. The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, indicated yesterday on German
TV that it would essentially cut Russia off from international financial markets.
And today, the Austrian Chancellor also indicated that that package of sanctions would have an impact on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between
Russia and Germany. Previously, Germany has been rather skittish sort of non committal on what it might do on that pipeline, in terms of sanctions,
if Russia were to invade. The Austrians are saying that is on the table and Josep Borrell, the E.U.'s top diplomat --
GIOKOS: So Scott, I'm just going to interject there, we are seeing live --
GIOKOS: -- pictures right now in Moscow. President Vladimir Putin signing the decree to recognize those two states as independent. This, of course,
is significant. Let's just take a quick listen into this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Russian Federation and Donetsk People -- People's Republic.
GIOKOS: Signing those decrees, recognizing Donetsk as an independent state, and another decree to follow as well.
All right, Scott, I'm going to bring you back in here. You know, this is exactly what we were talking about, should he sign these formally, this is
when the sanctions could possibly come into play. But, again, it has to be taken as recommendations, and then those need to be signed off. So what are
the next steps here?
MCLEAN: Yes, so we're trying to get clarification now as to how quickly the foreign ministers from the European Foreign Affairs Council could actually
vote on this package of sanctions. Obviously, as I mentioned, the Estonian Prime Minister is calling for sanctions right away, certainly a lot of
other countries are very likely to feel the same way.
But again, before this whole discussion about sanctions in Europe has always been about what happens when Russia actually moves into Ukraine, if
Russia actually moves into Ukraine. I've heard a lot less discussion about what would happen if they recognize these two regions. And now, this is
likely to light a fire under Europe to have some kind of a response, it would be difficult to imagine this going without some kind of response, but
what exactly that might be and whether or not they'll put their money where their mouth is and actually implement some sanctions. That's a different
We know that the foreign minister from Ukraine met with the foreign ministers of the 27 E.U. member states and called for some sanctions before
a Russian invasion, saying they weren't really going to do much good after the Russian tanks had already rolled into the territory, and at the very
least calling for some partial sanctions to be implemented. So perhaps, that is another option.
But again, something like the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is a big, big deal for a lot of countries, especially given how reliant Europe is on energy for
Russia. 40 percent of all natural gas in Europe comes from Russia. And so now Europe has some serious decisions to make.
We know that countries like Italy, the prime minister's saying that these sanctions should not involve targeting Russia's energy sector, but again,
Borrell said that all of the countries are already on the same page about this sanctions.
And according to Austria, that includes the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and so we'll have to wait and see whether or not they're ready to go ahead with
those now, Eleni.
GIOKOS: So -- absolutely, Scott. And, you know, we know that both sides have a lot to lose. So if you stop the gas flows, that means Russia will
lose very important revenue. If you, you know, cut gas off to Europe, that means that you cut off a significant energy supply. And this is where
sanctions become questionable in terms of whether they work, whether there are a lot of loopholes, we also know that some of the recommendations
within the package is that the Russian ruble will not be allowed to be used, and also the dollar, for example, in international trade.
So this is to be really interesting to see how they're actually able to implement this. And this has been Ukraine's big issue, because they've said
that sanctions need to be implemented before we get into trouble. And it seems like at this point in time, it's a dangerous position.
MCLEAN: Yes. And so you mentioned, you know, not allowing Russia just some sort of some way to get around the sanctions that are being put in place.
And we know from the Belgian Prime Minister, who said just on Friday, Eleni, that the E.U. was coordinating their sanctions, in concert with the
United States, Canada, and also Switzerland, to try to make sure that that cannot happen, to try to make sure in his words, that there is no "escape
In terms of the energy, we know that just this afternoon, E.U. foreign ministers were meeting with the foreign minister from Saudi Arabia and from
other Gulf countries as well, to discuss a range of issues. But one of them that certainly came up that was sort of the elephant in the room that Josep
Borrell alluded to, when he spoke with the press is that, of course, Europe has some serious energy concerns right now. And that obviously is going to
We know that President Biden, a few weeks ago, had been making a plea trying to make arrangements for Europe to have energy from other parts of
the world, be it Asia or the Middle East, to try to make sure that the shortfall could be made up. And so how quickly that could get in place,
it's not really clear and how quickly, you know, Europe might start losing access to Russian energy. We don't know where whether Russia might leave
the taps on to Europe, despite the fact that something like the Nord Stream 2 pipeline may not go ahead. There's still a lot of unanswered questions at
GIOKOS: So many unanswered questions. And if you really want to squeeze a country in terms of sanctions, you have to try and think about the revenue
stream. So I think this is going to be a really interesting one to take a look at. Scott McLean in Brussels, thank you very much for that insight.
So just moments ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree recognizing separatist republics in Ukraine as independent following a
lengthy address on the situation there. It's the latest development and a crisis that steadily evolved over the past few days.
Earlier, the U.S. said Russia isn't just planning to invade Ukraine, it's also planning a so called kill list. U.S. officials have written to the
U.N. Human Rights Commissioner, saying they have credible information that Russian forces are putting together lists of Ukrainians to either kill, or
to send to camps. The U.S. says Russian forces would likely target dissidents, journalists, and vulnerable minority groups.
The Kremlin, of course, denies all of this calling the U.S.'s claims absolute fiction. We've got CNN's Security Correspondent Kylie Atwood
joining me now from Washington, and Kylie, the U.N. says that the situation on the ground is deteriorating significantly. What more can you tell us?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, that's right. You laid it out, the United States saying that they have new and credible
information that Russia has a plan that they have actually put together a list of Ukrainians that they would kill, or put into camps after a Russian
military occupation of Ukraine.
What this demonstrates is that Russia isn't just talking about the military, tactical aspects of an invasion here, they are also planning for
what comes after that, and how they essentially control the country, control the people.
Now, the U.S. in this letter to the United Nations, pointed to what Russia has used in the past with these targeted tactics going after people saying
that this is likely to be what playbook they would use here. They would go after people who are specifically vulnerable, who are in minority groups,
religious minority groups, part of the LGBTQI population, or dissidents from Ukraine or Russia and really target those people.
So this is a very alarming amount of information that the United States is now sharing with the United Nations. And, of course, it comes as the Biden
ministration has been saying over the last few days leading up to this speech today by President Putin that they remain open to diplomacy even
though they do expect that Russia is going to invade Ukraine.
And so what we're waiting for today is to see exactly how the Biden administration responds to the speech that President Putin made. What is
the U.S. going to do? Are they going to put sanctions on Russia for formally recognizing these separatist regions that are -- that were part of
Ukraine as now part of Russia? What are they going to do?
We do expect that they are going to act alongside allies and partners, that has been something that they have been very clear in articulating over the
last number of months here, that the U.S. doesn't want to act unilaterally, nor do European allies of the U.S., they want to act in unison. So it might
take a little while to see actually how they're going to respond to this. And, of course, if Secretary of State Blinken will meet with Russian
Foreign Minister Lavrov later this week, as they said they had planned to do.
GIOKOS: Absolutely. And of course, the big question whether Joe Biden will also meet with Vladimir Putin, and I wonder what that's going to look like,
you know, a lot of things hanging in the balance.
But importantly, here, you've got a lot of alarming information that's coming through from Ukraine right now. And this is a critical point. We
also know that the U.S. had a, you know, very certain degree of certainty in terms of an invasion or some kind of move by Russia in the last few
hours. And that's really been the big messaging from the United States.
What are we still anticipating in terms of the reaction, from the White House importantly, and the Biden administration in, you know, moments to
come now that Biden -- now that Putin has decided to sign those decrees?
ATWOOD: Yes, so we're waiting for a formal response from the White House. We know that President Biden's national security team had -- was actually
meeting at the White House today, as President Putin was delivering these remarks. So clearly, they were all synced up, ready to respond, ready even
though we didn't know this address was coming, that was a previously scheduled meeting, but they were already working together to try and figure
out what the next United States step here is here.
However, it is important to note that this is not what U.S. officials believe is going to be the extent of what Russia does. Formally recognizing
these territories of eastern Ukraine isn't what the United States thinks Russia has lined up all these troops, more than 150,000 troops along
Ukraine's borders for. So U.S. officials have privately been saying that they expect that this formal recognition of those territories could come.
But that's not all they expect to come.
And so that's why the Biden administration has been sharing what they expect so openly so that folks who are watching along at home and don't
really understand all the dynamics here sort of knew what may actually be the cards that Russia puts on the table next, the next moves that it makes,
but we're still waiting to see you know, how Biden actually responds to this because it isn't Russian forces as of yet, going across the border
into Ukraine. And so that is something that was kind of a delineating decision point for the U.S. in terms of whether they go forth with
diplomacy or not.
GIOKOS: Kylie Atwood in DC, thank you very much. Great to see you. We'll be right back after this short break. Stay with us.
GIOKOS: Welcome back to CNN. And breaking news, President Vladimir Putin has just signed two decrees stating independent states in the Ukraine that
are run by pro-Russian separatists. This is an important move by the Russian president showing perhaps his cards in terms of what he plans to do
next. Of course, the U.S. still believes that that isn't his only plan, there's still a hardcore military buildup across Ukraine borders and that
causing a lot of concern. And we also know that sanctions could be in play as we speak.
We've got our reporters standing by to give us insights. We've got Nic Robertson and Nick Paton Walsh in Lviv, Nick Paton Walsh, I'm going to
start with you. Listening to Vladimir Putin and his, you know, preamble in terms of history lesson, giving us context, it was justifying why he
believes Ukraine needs to still be part of Russia. This is quite significant signing these decrees. And I wonder if this court, the United
States and the West, generally off guard, I think a lot of people were expecting some kind of conventional invasion and this was his first
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: It was his first strategic move, it may not be the full extent of it, but on the scale of
things that were potentially in his deck of cards, this is one of the lesser measures, certainly the least being doing nothing.
But it did come with a history lesson, like you said, essentially time suggesting that Ukraine doesn't really have much of a right to exist as a
country and more modernly, suggesting that it would be used by NATO as a platform for an attack against Russia, talking about its current government
being part of a U.S. funded coup, an extensive series of mistruths, frankly, designed to paint, I think, for the Russian audience, the fact
that Russia should have legitimate grievances against what is currently happening in Ukraine. .
Now decision to sign in such short order, he was discussing whether it was a good idea a matter of hours ago with his top officials to sign those
papers so fast, well, I think caused many immediately to wonder if that is it. And there was a very telling sentence at the end, where he essentially
said that Ukraine would bear responsibility for any further bloodshed after this decision essentially saying that Ukrainian forces, who Russia accuses,
most of the time, seems falsely of opening fire in direction of separatists should certainly cease that.
So this recognition of these two breakaway republics, I should say, essentially territories that have declared themselves to be separate
entities, and are now recognized by Russia, that comes with the implicit threat of course, well, over 150,000 it seems Russian troops and airpower
amassed on Ukraine's borders. And so I think, if this is truly it, if this is all that Vladimir Putin is doing, giving us an extensive near hour-long
history lesson, and essentially explaining the world according to Vladimir Putin, it means that Russia is always under threat from NATO, and needs to
act to defend itself that there may be some in western capitals feeling not relief, but a sense that maybe this isn't as bad as it could have been.
There may still be sanctions, but it will be less simple for United Western response. But I have to say this may be part of what we've seen Vladimir
Putin do in the past, and that is slowly escalate, do one small step and another, he knows that the West is obsessed with 24 hour news cycles and
things happening quickly, and that maybe this plan for him unfolds under a number of months, not just today.
GIOKOS: Absolutely. He sounds very misery measured in some ways. Nic in Moscow, you know, what is going to be the response now by the United
States? And, you know, we were sitting at a very sort of critical point of a possible meeting between Biden and Putin and the, you know, France really
just trying to sort of play the diplomatic hand here to ensure that there's some kind of Olive branch in some ways.
But it seems that Putin is talking more about concessions. OK. You give me these, you know, two territories, and maybe we can talk. It's really just
sort of fascinating to see how it's playing out at this critical point.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, of course, this isn't the end of it for Putin. He's put a gun to Ukraine's head, he's
threatened the international community, and he's taking this piece of action, because he hasn't got what he wanted and this fall -- falls far
short of the demands that he's continued to make, let's say, for example, under the circumstance of what he's saying, you know, he's recognized this
area as independent.
Over time, he says he has a concern that Ukraine could go ahead and join NATO, that would mean that whole of NATO would be in a fight against
Russia, potentially in the future. So he hasn't mitigated against that. HE was earlier on today saying what will I get if I get into talks with
President Biden? I don't know what's on the table. I think what's interesting here, you know, many things are interesting, of course.
But, you know, we've heard the German Chancellor condemn this action. But we also heard from the German chancellor and the French President earlier
on after they'd been briefed by the Kremlin before the announcement was made public, that they would continue their diplomatic dialogue with
So in an effort to maintain unity, there will be clearly pressure on President Biden to maintain that diplomatic dialogue. And if President
Putin doesn't move troops across the border and he hadn't given an indication he's going to do that, of course, it's widely understood that it
-- that sort of thing has been happening covertly, into the Donbas region over the years. But if he doesn't do it overtly, this is not going to bring
about the trigger of sanctions. And the White House will be very keen to keep the unity that they've had, because they still want to, you know, be
able to apply that unity of message.
But we can see that, you know, breaking down to a degree this evening, the Estonian Prime Minister has said now is the time to put sanctions on Russia
and the strength of unity. And that was one of the messages of the Munich Security Conference this weekend of NATO allies of the European Union has
been a call to what the United States has been trying to do. So I think we'll see the United States try to make sure that that unity remains for
GIOKOS: Absolutely. Nic Robertson in Moscow, Nick Paton Walsh in Lviv. Thank you very much for your insights. Good to see you. Much appreciate it.
And thanks so much for watching tonight. Stay with CNN. We've got "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" up next.