Meet the Press   |  April 27, 2014

White House Adviser on Ukraine, Mideast Peace

David Gregory’s full Meet the Press interview with White House Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken.

Share This:

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

>> by one of the president's top foreign policy advisers, tony blinken . he's deputy national security adviser. mr. blinken , welcome back to "meet the press."

>> thanks, david.

>> let me start on ukraine . you were here in early march and you made it very clear what the united states is doing is having an impact on russia . this is what you said then.

>> what we're doing is bringing the world together to exert significant pressure on russia and to exert significant isolation on russia and his actions and the actions we've taken in response are undermining that influence, undermining its economic influence, undermining its geopolitical influence.

>> so you say. but here we are more than a month later, crimea is gone, russia is not listening to the united states . its troops are still on the border. economic sanctions have started. maybe they've had some bite but putin is standing tall. so what isolation and influence over putin have you really achieved?

>> david, a week ago the russians signed onto a road map to de-escalate the crisis in ukraine . unfortunately, they haven't lived up to that road map in the least. on friday the president despite being in asia convened all of the major european leaders on a conference call and got an agreement to move forward on additional sanctions which i think --

>> putin is not blinking. that's the point. you said over a month ago, hey, we're being tough on this guy. he's isolated. he's undermined. where is the evidence of that?

>> let's look at what's happened over the last month as a result of the pressure that we've exert exerted. russian financial markets are down 22%. the ruble is at often all-time low. we have foreign investment that's drying up, and we have capital flight , $70 billion over the last couple months. putin himself acknowledged this is having an impact on the russian economy . they're going to have to make a choice. are they going to persist in the actions they're taking to destabilize ukraine or are --

>> but they are persisting. all those things you say may be true. putin is persisting. so are you saying now he's close to backing down?

>> i'm saying we're having a significant impact on the economy. we're keeping the world together and exerting the kind of pressure necessary to get him to think hard about what he's doing. it's true, crimea was taken. crimea is going to be a dead weight on russia . they are pouring billions and billions of dollars into crimea to shore it up. that's going to have an impact. the bloom is going to come off this rose. putin said i'm going to deliver economic growth but in return you be politically complacent. the growth is drying up. so that compact is eroding and he has very hard choices to make.

>> but he's also very popular for having grabbed crimea , and the question i have for you, i know speaking to people at the highest levels of the government, the prediction at this point is he doesn't invade ukraine . is that your view? does he stop short of that and just keep trying to destabilize ukraine ?

>> his goal i think is to destabilize ukraine . it's so delay the election. it's to disrupt the election --

>> you don't think he'll invade?

>> he has troops poised at the borders. we've seen him take -- engage in very dangerous maneuvers twice this week. he has that card. but i don't think it's in his interest to do that. here's why. if he were to invade ukraine , not only with would the entire international community come down on him with extraordinary pressure but he would inherit a lot of people who have no decision to have the russians on their backs.

>> here is a question then ultimately for whether you move next with big economic sanctions . the europeans want to do business in russia . they do a lot more than the united states does. often u.s. companies can get hurt more than anybody else here. do you specifically target putin with sanctions next if he goes into eastern ukraine ?

>> the president has been very deliberate about building the pressure, working very closely with the europeans . one of the reasons he got the europeans together on this call on friday and got a very strong g-7 statement is to try and move in coordination with them.

>> would you target putin specifically?

>> what we've done to date is looked at individuals around putin . we've looked at companies and entities that they control. we've looked at senior russian officials. it's a rare thing to go after the leader of a country. right now what we'll be doing as early as tomorrow but certainly sometime this week is to go after people very close to him, go after the entities they control --

>> are you ruling out targeting --

>> i'm not ruling anything in or anything out.

>> and his vast wealth which has been reported as lately as this morning.

>> what we're seeing is the people around him are being directly affected by the measures we're taking and the steps the europeans are taking.

>> pull back here. what is the larger strategic interest for the united states ? hone honestly, putin cares more about crimea and the ukraine does than the united states does in terms of managing the world.

>> russia went in to a country and tried to redraw the map of the country by force. if we stand by and allow that to happen, that sets a terrible precedent. virtually everywhere else in the world, and we're hearing that in asia from some of our asian partners, even hearing it from the chinese. there's something else going on here, too. when the soviet union fell apart and a number of successor countries were left, including ukraine , many of them had thousands of nuclear weapons on their territory. one of the great achievements of the clinton administration was to get ukraine and other countries to give up their nuclear weapons . countries like russia , the united states , the uk would sign onto a compact guaranteeing their sovereignty and territorial integrity. russia signed that, it's grossly violated that. what message does that send to countries where we're trying to gi get them to give up --

>> is there any military cost ex acted by the united states or nato if putin moves forward?

>> we're trying to de-escalate this crisis, not escalate. we don't see a military confrontation but we see increasing support for ukraine . we have a program that will get $37 billion or $38 billion to ukraine .

>> on the middle east and the peace process unraveling. does the president decide to pull secretary kerry and get him out of the peace making business in the middle east or stf possible that the united states in the absence of negotiating partners advances its own peace plan , puts it on the table, and says get to work?

>> thanks to secretary kerry 's incredible leadership and determination, the parties made progress in breaking through some of the road blocks but not all of them. the fundamental problem now is they're at a point where they're confronted with having to make very, very difficult decisions.

>> understood.

>> neither side has been willing to do that. we can't want this more than they do. it may be there needs to be a little pause. people need to step back and reflect and look at the alternatives but because of the engagement the secretary has had, because of the strong support from the president, we've gotten them closer.

>> does kerry come out for now?

>> we're going to take this day by day . we have to see -- they need a chance to reflect on where they are, look at the alternatives. he will be deeply engaged with them, but right now the bottom line is this, we can't want this more than they do --

>> so you're saying the united states would not advance its own peace plan .

>> we need the parties to reflect on where they are and think about the next steps they want to make.

>> tony blinken , thanks so much.