Meet the Press   |  March 16, 2014

Senators Update on Capitol Hill Action on Crimea

Senate Foreign Relations Committee members Jeff Flake and Dick Durbin update David with the latest on Capitol Hill action on the Ukraine crisis.

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

>>> here. i'm operating, senator durbin, on the is this that crimea is gone, ha this vote moves forward. what's the plan to change putin 's calculation to either get him to reverse this or to stop where he is?

>> first the selection, a referendum is a lame accuse by putin to invade crimea and take it over. when you move in thousands of russian troops from sochi olympics to garrison their positions in krooipia, then to have these masked gunmen with automatic weapons roaming the streets, what a delight nufl election atmosphere. we know what the ending is going to be. now the west has to decide, no the just the west but the civilized world has to decide whether we're going to do anything.

>> but what's the thing?

>> there are plenty of things we can do. the president working now to put together an agenda. we passed jeff and i are on the we passed a measure last weeking that provides not onlien economic assistance to ukraine and the possibility of imf loans coming their way with reform but also very serious sanctions against russia .

>> what about military aid to ukraine ? are you for it? does ukraine need more military support to hold off russia if it were to move into the eastern part of the country?

>> their military has been hollowed out. according to many so ukrainians, we have nothing that shoots, runs, or flies. it's because the russians have had such close ties with the previous government they hauled the military out. so yes, this he need a lot of help. but nothing we can do will help the ukraine withstand what russia is going to do if they decide to go into.

>> what if they get the successful vote, it becomes part of your russia and they say okay, that's it, we'll have a truce. we're not sending any more troops in. is that an acceptable status quo.

>> no.

>> so the sanctions would still go?

>> they invaded a sovereign nation . if we're going to stand by and let them do to ukraine what they did to the republic of georgia, you can expect more.

>> senator flake, can you reverse that with economic penalties?

>> possibly. it's going to be difficult. russia always had designs on crimea . it considers it part of russia . all you can do is increase the cost significantly and hope that they don't move further into the ukraine .

>> to that point, is eastern ukraine a red line for the united states ?

>> well, certainly we've got to move in hard now with sanctions. regardless of whether they move tomorrow or the next week or hold back. we're going to move forward with sanctions, not just us but european allies, as well.

>> when we deal with vladimir putin , this issue of hypocrisy is he comes up. the united nations pointedly criticized the u.s.'s death penalty .

>> there are i of imperfections in every government of every nation. putin , this is the single most serious act of aggression since the cold war . he ended up the final ceremony at the sochi olympics which are network covered trying to make it a charm offensive for the world that this is a modern russian nation and within hours invading one of his neighbors sending the same troops protecting the athletes at sochi into the crimea . now, are we going to stand by and say this is acceptable conduct? because this isn't the end of his ambition.

>> how do you change the calculation? that's what i don't see.

>> speaking of the u.n., what's important is happened yesterday when the u.s. and the security council with china actually abstaining not siding with russia , actually voting to could be dem what happened. that's important. what resolutions in the general assembly or whatever are less important certainly, and there's no way you can having some moral equivalency of what putin is doing and what we've done in the past.

>> another note before i ask you a couple things domestically. that is syria . nbc news devoted a great deal of coverage to the untold suffering of the children of syria in this refugee crisis on the heels of that, congress has taken action, moving to, as you did, senator durbin, with your name on it, pushing for more humanitarian aid , but the reality is this moves into its fourth year. those children in syria , those refugees are not going to be helped unless something is done to step assad . can anything besides some sort of military intervention do that?

>> first let's focus on refugees and children. i'm glad nbc did. 2.3 million is one estimate i've read close to accurate. the united states has absorbed so few of these families. we have to be more welcoming and open to help these families transition into i an safe place in their lives. then comes the political question. what can we do in syria to change what's happened there for several years? it is a quandary. trying to find the right opposition force that will stand by us and fight against assad has been a challenge. many opposition forces are the no friendly to the united states . let's be careful. the allies we choose, let's support them as best we can so that we put pressure on assad to end the killing.

>> senator flake, the president two years ago said assad 's days were numbered. how did he misjudge it.

>> we do have a problem when you have somebody draws red lines that nobody has a problem stepping over. i think that was a miscalculation and could have been handled better. i'm not suggesting we could end the suffering there or would have ended it all or future suffering but i think we could have done a better job with our policy.

>> this is the ultimate thing with russia , as well. conservatives charles krauthammer calling it obama's fruitless accommodationism. does it invite russia 's putz tin to take the action he's taken or assad feel he's got more staying power ?

>> mr. kraut hammer it has a short memory. do you realize what happened in the georgia republic against president bush ? virtually the same thing that's happening in crimea . putin went in there and seized territory and held it. what does he say of the bush administration in those dayses? as far as our policy in responding to putin 's aggression, what will the bipartisan congress do to support the president's actions? when the president asked for just the authority for military action to stop chemical weapons in syria , it was hard to get. in fact, we couldn't achieve it on the floor of the house or senate and couldn't get a bipartisan san consensus us behind foreign policy .

>> i voted to give the president that. i've been critical of the president in the past but i don't thinking anything the president did or said lended itself to what putin did here.