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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript: Crimean Crisis


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Peter King, Congressman from New York, is joining us. He's a member of the House Homeland Security Committee as well as the Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us. REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Do you have any doubt that Russian troops, Russian paramilitary forces, Russian intelligence operatives, were directly responsible for the unrest in eastern Ukraine?

KING: Wolf, I have no doubt at all. Based on our own estimates, based on the NATO commander, based on people on the ground, based on journalists and just based on what happened in Crimea, I have no doubt at all that Putin an the Russians are behind this. This is part of their concerted effort to take as much of eastern Ukraine as they can, either by diplomatic pressure, or if they have to, by ultimately using troops claiming they're going in to protect the Russians in eastern Ukraine.

BLITZER: So what should the U.S. do about it?

KING: There's no easy answer, Wolf. But I think again, I can be critical of the president up until now. But let's go forward to the future. One, we should make this more a priority. We should make it absolutely clear that we're going to all we can do increase the exporting of liquefied natural gas, that we are going to work with our allies to lessen their reliance on Russia. We have to go much higher, I think, on the list as far as sanctions, going after sanctions.

And make it clear to investors around the world this is not something we're going to give Putin the exit ramp. We're in this for the long haul. We are going to have a concerted energy policy, a concerted economic policy, to keep Russia from expanding or trying to create this new empire. We should be having more military maneuvers with NATO countries in eastern Europe, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, also Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, to make it clear that we are in this.

We -- in many ways, to is to me like 1946, where Churchill and Truman realized there was a new -- not a new, but there was a Soviet government that we could not work with. I think we have to right now let Putin know we put him in that category and we will take whatever economic and diplomatic actions necessary and provide the military hardware and training to our NATO allies.

BLITZER: Ben Rhodes, the president's deputy national security adviser, told our Jake Tapper earlier today that lethal military equipment from U.S. to Ukraine is not a good idea. It wouldn't bring parity to the situation, he said, could escalate the situation right now. He said that is not the right course. Do you support the U.S. providing lethal military equipment, weapons in effect, to Ukraine?

KING: I would be skeptical right now only because what happened last week. I don't know how much the Russians have infiltrated Ukraine. I don't know how much either the Ukraine military or Ukraine intelligence forces have been infiltrated by the Russians. But I would give it to Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, any of those countries in the -- along the perimeter of Ukraine and Russia.

BLITZER: All those countries you mentioned are NATO allies. Ukraine is not a NATO ally.

KING: Well, listen, if I thought it would work, I would say, yes, we should give them the military hardware. My only concern right now is whether -- is how much control Ukrainian government has over its military.

Last week when the Ukrainian army went in with their tanks, they surrendered, basically, in a matter of minutes and just turned them over to the sole Russian elements there. So I -- I -- that's my concern, would be who in the Ukraine is with us; who's with the Russians?

BLITZER: Let's talk about these -- the latest U.S. drone strikes against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula targets in Yemen. Based on what you know, and I know you're a member of the intelligence committee, the House Homeland Security Committee. Did they work? Were they successful?

KING: I -- I'm not at these briefings. If I did, I wouldn't be able to discuss them with you, only to say that, if these reports are true, if they are accurate, then I say the president is doing the right thing.

To me, last year, we actually slowed down on our use of drones. And sometimes the president seems apologetic about using them. But Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is the most lethal element in the entire al Qaeda network. They're the ones who have the most capacity. They have people like al-Asiri, who is the leading bomb maker in the terrorist world. They are the ones who have made it their goal to attack the U.S. and to attack U.S. interests.

So whatever we can do to decimate the al Qaeda leadership in Yemen, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leadership, and to weaken them, that's a step, a very strong step in the right direction. So I hope these reports are true, and I hope that we have gotten as many of them as possible.

BLITZER: We're showing our viewers some video, that brazen video that the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula militants, they posted it themselves. It was pretty high-definition resolution. They were pretty proud. Their faces were seen. It looked like this was almost like a recruiting video for future terrorists. You saw the video, didn't you, Congressman?

KING: I did. It actually had the No. 2 man, and the No. 1 man in al Qaeda in the -- al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al Masri, was there. And that was very brazen putting that out. Really showed defiance.

And, you know, whether or not there's a connection between that video and these attacks, we'll have to wait and see. But again, if there were, I commend the president for doing it. But again, there wasn't a sort of slowing down in our use of drones over the last year, based on published reports. I think the president -- sometimes, again, he's apologetic and I think in some cases has set too many restrictions on the use of drones. But if this attack, in effect, was carried out, then it was definitely the right thing.

BLITZER: Peter King, the House Homeland Security Committee. Thanks very much, Congressman, for joining us.

KING: Thank you, Wolf.


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