Meet the Press   |  March 09, 2014

View from the White House: Obama Aide on Ukraine, Lost Flight

Tony Blinken, Deputy National Security Adviser to President Barack Obama, offers his latest insights on the Ukraine crisis and the disappearance of the Malaysia Airways jet.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> let me start on the malaysian airliner. are you worried this could be terrorism? and what fuels that worry?

>> david , first of all, our thoughts and prayers are with the families and those who lost loved ones in in accident. and this incident. we have three american citizens who were on board, many chinese, taiwanese. we're looking into all the questions that this raises. fbi, the national be transportation safety board , the federal aviation agency all are heading to the area to help in the investigation. lots of questions have been raised. we don't have the answers yet. we'll get them.

>> the stolen passports, the fact there were two of them on one flight, if you're hearing this at home, that's got to be a red flag for the government, for investigators.

>> it certainly raises concerns. that's why we're looking into it. there could be different explanations for what's involved. we don't want to get ahead of the facts. we need to get the facts. that's what the investigators will do.

>> talk about the crisis in ukraine . since this starred, the president and his top officials have issued it seems like line after line and putin seems toes have crossed them all. why does this president and the united states generally have so little influence over him?

>> well, david , i think what we've seen is the president mobilizing the international community in support of ukraine to isolate russia and to reassurure allies and partners. the president put together a major international support package. he's invited the oo ukrainian prime minister to consult with him. and in terms of isolating russia , what we've seen as a result of the mobilized support is that the financial markets in russia have hit lows. the ruble has hit a low, #j get involved in russia because of the instability. all of that is exacting a real consequence. the question is this.

>> i just want to challenge you on this point because my question is, we've said don't do this or else. and president putin keeps doing it and more.

>> the president's made clear and so have leaders from around the world including in europe where we're closely coordinated that russia has a choice going forward. it can continue down the path it's on and face much greater isolation and cost, or it can take the opportunity to resolve this diplomatically in a way that addresses its concerns but restores ukraine 's sovereignty.

>> he's not listening. i think people want to know why it is that the administration can't exert greater pressure on him to stop him before he does something.

>> the cost is already significant, first of all. second, the president's made clear that going forward, in coordination with our partners and allies, we have in place a mechanism with sanctions to raise the cost significantly. but this is really a choice for the russians to make. they have to decide whether they want to resolve this diplomatically or face growing isolation and growing economic cost . right now what's happening is that --

>> i'm sorry. you finish, i'm sorry.

>> right now, what's happening is that secretary of state kerry is engaged with his russian counterpart lavrov. european leaders are engaged with president putin . the president spent the weekend on the phone with chancellor merkel of germany, hollande of france, cameron of great britain, the italian prime minister , renzi, bringing together, marshalling the work of the international community to continue top exert and increase the pressure on russia to do the right thing going forward.

>> "the washington post " lead story this morning about how now russia is saying if you're going ??jtally, n us lzy8 we'll stop inspecting nuclear weapons in russia . that's part of an important nuclear treaty. how seriously do you take that threat?

>> we've seen those reports. the russians haven't said anything to us about that directly. we haven't seen any change in their practices. obviously, that would be a serious development. inspections are an important part of arms control agreements. we've had ingredients with the russians and with the soviet union for decades and throughout the ups and downs of the relationship, each side made good on its commitment.

>> here's the reality. that is that crimea is a week from today going to vote on joining russia . if the crimean people speak and become part of russia , is the incontrovertible fact that russian aggression into ukraine will stand?

>> david , first, if there is a referendum and it votes to move crimea out of ukraine to russia , we won't recognize it and most of the world won't either. second, were that to happen, the isolation of russia , the cost it would pay would increase significantly from where they are now.i& you have to put this in a larger context. what's happened is this. russia had a government in ukraine that it supported and that started to take very aggressive action against its own people. that government is gone. the government more oriented toward the west is in place. and so what you'red" seeing is i think putin acting from the position of weakness, concerned that ukraine was leaving russia 's orbit. the bottom line is it doesn't have to be in anyone's orbit. if ukraine succeeds economically, politically, integrated with the world, that would be good for russia and ukrainians.

>> the question though is whether all options even military options are on the table should putin go further. there are a lot of baltic it can states part of nato. other form soviet republics in this region who are scared who think putin is doing what he wants to do because he perceives is weakness from the west particularly from president obama . are all options on the table? are you saying to president putin go no further or else military options are on the table?

>> david , what we're doing is bringing the world together to exert significant pressure on russia and to exert rt significant isolation on russia . understand this. when putin thinks about mam maximizing russia 's power, he's interested in making sure that it has economic influence and global influence and his actions and the actions we have taken in response are undermining that influence, undermining economic influence, under mining 80s gee yoet political influence. if the only way you to have to exert your influence is through oh ergs and briberien an forcing people, that won't be a way to extend your power. what you'll see in the days ahead as this moves forward is tremendous solidarity in coordination led by president obama among the international community to exert a price and a cost if russia continues to move forward. but it does not need to be that way. there is a clear off-ramp for rauchia that will get the international inspectors in, get russia and ukraine talking directly and head toward elections may 25th . russia says it has concerns about the legitimacy of the government in ukraine . that can be answered with the election may 25th . meanwhile the president is mobilizing international support for ukraine and working to isolate russia if it persists in this course.

>> tony blinken, top national security advisor to president obama . thanks so much for your time this morning.

>> thanks very much.