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CNN "Newsroom" - Transcript: Military Exercises in Eastern Europe


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Let's bring in Congressman Peter King of New York. He joins me now. Good morning, Congressman.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Good morning, Carol. How are you?

COSTELLO: I'm good. Thank you for being here.

KING: You're welcome.

COSTELLO: First of all your reaction to these U.S. troops in Poland and those other Baltic nations?

KING: I think it's very important that the President do this. We should have them again in Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, and make it clear that this is not just a temporary measure. I think one criticism I would have of the President is that he's not up until now shown we're in this for the long haul. He's talking about off ramps for Putin.

I think we have to make it clear that our troops should be there. Also I think we should consider restarting the missile defense system in Eastern Europe, which again will be a signal to the Russians. And also we have to dramatically accelerate, I believe, the production and exporting of liquefied natural gas to Europe so the allies won't be dependent on Russia. And again it will be a strong signal to Russia and investors in Russia that we are serious about this.

COSTELLO: There are 40,000 Russian troops amassed along the border with Ukraine.

KING: Right.

COSTELLO: Some have suggested that the United States should send more troops to Eastern Europe. Do you agree with that?

KING: I don't know if we have to at this stage. I think right now this is sending a first signal. But if we have to send more, we should. But again the purpose of our troops is not to counter the Russians per se, you know, man-to-man or soldier-to-soldier but to send a very strong signal that we are standing with our NATO allies and that any movement by the Russians against a NATO ally is a move against the United States.

So in many ways our troops there are a trip wire. And you know the Russians have to realize that a move against Poland, for instance is, a move against the U.S. and NATO and that means that NATO would come to the defense of one of those countries.

COSTELLO: So we seem to be at the standoff now and I must say it's unsettling to see U.S. troops there even though you know there is no interest in any military action per se.

KING: Well, again, I mean you know NATO to be taken seriously we have to show that we are serious about defending these countries. We do live in a very dangerous world. And Vladimir Putin has really changed the calculus in that part of the world. We have thought from 1991 on that we could find a way to work with the Russians, that we have economic links that again there would be societal links between us and the Russians and the Russia would become more and more westernized but Putin wants to apparently rebuild a Russian empire so we have to be serious about this.

NATO just can't be there for decorations or for parades. It has to show that it is willing to stand and fight if it has to. Now nobody wants that to happen. But I think you know one way to invite aggression is that we show any sign of weakness and we show that we're not going to stand by our allies especially the Baltic States.

I mean, some of those Baltic States have 25 percent, 30 percent, 35 percent Russian population. And that would be a very good excuse for the Russians to say they have to go in to Estonia or Latvia or Lithuania to protect the Russians in those countries. We have to make it clear that we're not going to tolerate that.

COSTELLO: OK so is it safe to say then that you don't think that tougher sanctions is the answer and we shouldn't bother with them?

KING: Oh no. I think we have to do sanctions. We have to increase the sanctions. We should make -- this has to be a full-pronged comprehensive plan against the Russians. Sanctions are very important. We should go higher than we have. We should get the people closest to Putin, and we should make it clear to other countries that want to invest in Russia that this is going to be a long struggle against the Russians, an economic struggle.

It's going to be a military standoff, if you will, and we are very serious and we're going to be increasing our exporting of energy to Europe which will then weaken the Russians because they won't have the markets in Europe they had before and the European countries won't dependent on them.

Now I think this is similar to 1946 when Winston Churchill and Harry Truman realized that there's going to be a struggle with the Soviet Union. We're not looking to a military struggle but this has to be an all-out economic and diplomatic struggle with the military in reserve which is why we are having these training maneuvers going on in Poland. Training means that you are training to be ready for combat, God forbid that happens. So that's why the troops are there.

COSTELLO: I know it just seems like deja vu all over again.

KING: Yes.

COSTELLO: And Congressman -- yes Congressman Peter King, thanks so much for joining me this morning. I appreciate it.

KING: You're very welcome, Carol. Thank you.


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