CBS "Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer" - Transcript: Ukraine Crisis

Interview

By:  John Kerry
Date: March 2, 2014
Location: Unknown

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BOB SCHIEFFER: We are joined now by Secretary of State John Kerry who is in Boston this morning. Mister Secretary, thank you for being here. The Ukrainian prime minister says this morning that Russia's actions amount to a declaration of war and he says we are on the brink of disaster. Do you agree with that?

JOHN KERRY (Secretary of State): Well, it's-- it's an incredible act of aggression. It is really a stunning willful choice by President Putin to invade another country. Russia is in violation of the sovereignty of Ukraine. Russia is in violation of its international obligations. Russia is in violation of its obligations under the U.N. Charter, under the Helsinki Final Act. It's a violation of its obligations under the 1994 Budapest Agreement. You just don't in the twenty-first century behave in nineteenth-century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext. So, it is a very serious moment. But it's serious not in the context, Bob, of Russia-U.S. it's serious in terms of sort of the-- the modern manner with which nations are going to resolve problems. There were all kinds of other options still available to Russia. There still are. President Obama wants to emphasize to the Russians that there is a right set of choices that can still be made to address any concerns they have about Crimea about their citizens but you don't choose to invade a country in order to do that.

BOB SCHIEFFER: The President spoke to Vladimir Putin we're told for ninety minutes yesterday. The White House is describing it as the toughest phone call of his presidency. Do you think it had any impact?

JOHN KERRY: Well, we're going to have to wait and see. But I think it was a very important conversation, the President was very strong. He made absolutely clear that this was unacceptable that there will be serious repercussions if this stands. The President asked Mister Putin as-- in fact, told Mister Putin it was imperative to find a different path to rollback this invasion and undo this active aggression. He pointed out the many different ways in which Russia could have chosen to act. I mean if you have legitimate concerns about your citizens, go to the United Nations, ask for observers, engage the other country's government. There were any number of choices available to Russia. Russia chose this brazen act of aggression and moved in with its forces on a completely trumped up set of pretext, claiming that people were threatened. And the fact is that that's not the act of somebody who is strong, that's the act of somebody who is acting out of weakness and out of certain kind of desperation. We hope that Russia will turn this around. They can. Again and again all week, President Obama and I and others have insisted that we believe there's a way to deal with this issue. This doesn't have to be a zero sum game. It is not Russia versus United States, Russia v. Europe. This is about the people of Ukraine. The people of Ukraine are the people who initiated what is happening there. Their President Yanukovych supported by Russia lost all support, all legitimacy. He fled in the night, his own supporters deserted him. They went to their parliament and they voted according to their parliamentary process. So this is a democratic process that has placed this new government where it is and President Putin and Russia ought to respect that.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Mister Secretary, when you come right down to it the President says there's a cost, and I suppose there are certain diplomatic things you could do. You could boycott the G8 and so on but when you come right down to it, what can we really do here? I mean I don't suppose anybody thinks we're going to declare war on Russia here and send military forces in there?

JOHN KERRY: Well, there are very serious repercussions that can flow out of this. There are broad array of options that are available, not just to the United States but to our allies. I spent yesterday afternoon on the phone with many of my counterparts, I talked to ten of the foreign ministers of those countries most engaged in the G8, plus, some others. And all of them, every single one of them are prepared to go to the hilt in order to isolate Russia with respect to this invasion. They are prepared to put sanctions in place. They're prepared to isolate Russia economically. The ruble is already going down. Russia has major economic challenges. I can't imagine that an occupation of another country is something that appeals to people who are trying to reach out to the world and particularly if it involves violence, I think they're going to be inviting major difficulties for the long term. The people of Ukraine will not sit still for this. They know how to fight. They have demonstrated remarkable bravery, Bob. I mean you think about Yanukovych positioning his snipers on the rooftops of Kiev and-- and-- and notwithstanding people falling to the right and to the left, these marchers kept on marching. And they demanded their freedom. They demanded their opportunity to have their voices heard without a kleptocracy and a tyranny governing them. I think Russia needs to think very carefully about the choice that it's making. And there are visa bans, there are asset freezes, there is isolation with respect to trade and investment. American businesses may well want to start thinking twice about whether they want to do business with a country that behaves like this. These are serious implications.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let--

JOHN KERRY: I know from my conversations yesterday, every one of our allies and friends are determined to stay united and to make clear there is a price attached to this kind of behavior.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Are we actually prepared, Mister Secretary, to, boycott the G8 meeting there?

JOHN KERRY: Well, absolutely prepared to, if this-- if we can't resolve it otherwise but, the preference of the President, myself, the entire administration is to resolve this. We're not trying to make this a battle between East and West. We don't want to return to the Cold War. Nobody wants this kind of action. There are many ways to resolve this problem. As President Obama urged President Putin yesterday this is the moment to engage directly with the government of Ukraine. This can be resolved. We're prepared to mediate, to help. We're prepared to provide economic assistance of the major sort. We want the Congress to join us in providing that assistance. We hope that-- that this can be resolved according to the standards of the twenty-first century, and, frankly, according to the standards of the G8. If Russia wants to be a G8 country it needs to behave like a G8 country. And I guarantee you that everybody is determined that if this cannot be resolved in a reasonable, modern twenty-first century manner, there are going to be repercussions.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, Mister Secretary, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

JOHN KERRY: Thank you.

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