QUESTION: We are back now here at 7:30 on CBS Mornings and marking one year since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, an invasion that continues to send shockwaves all around the world. Just today the U.S. announced new sanctions against Moscow, and in a visit to Ukraine on Monday President Biden promised that the U.S. will support and continue that support, will not tire, until Russia withdraws or is defeated. Russian President Vladimir Putin also talking about all this blamed what he called American aggression for the conflict, and he has suspended Russia’s participation in the last remaining nuclear arms treaty with the U.S.
To talk about all that, we’ve got Secretary of State Antony Blinken with us. Mr. Secretary, good morning to you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Good morning.
QUESTION: Thank you very much for being here.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks, Tony.
QUESTION: These are issues you know. Not just for years but for decades you’ve been involved in national security, multiple administrations. From what you know and what you see right in this moment, is there a way this conflict ends in Ukraine, without America getting more involved?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I think we have to sustain our involvement, and that’s what we’re determined to do – but not just us, dozens of countries around the world. Tony, we were here in New York – a year and a week ago warning the world about the impending Russian invasion. Now, a year later, Ukraine is still standing, it’s still free, it’s still independent. Putin’s first objective was to erase it from the map, to absorb it into Russia. That has failed and that will fail. The main reason is incredible courage of the Ukrainian people, but also the support that dozens of countries around the world have provided and are determined to continue to provide.
QUESTION: Yeah. Well, support goes in multiple directions, and on the subject of warnings we’re also hearing from the Intel Community that China is considering lethal aid to Russia in support of their effort. How concerned are you with that, and what sanctions are on the table for preventing it?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: So, we are concerned, and in fact that’s one of the reasons that I made it public last week. What we’ve seen from day one is, if you go back to before the invasion started, just a couple of weeks before that, Vladimir Putin and President Xi Jinping of China had a meeting and they said they had a partnership with no limits. We were concerned from day one that that partnership might result in China providing lethal military assistance to Russia for use in Ukraine. And so, we’ve said from day one don’t do it.
We have information recently that they’re now thinking about doing it, and so we’ve tried publicly to – as well as privately – to warn them against it. There is no point in adding fuel to the fire. China’s trying to have it both ways. They’re trying to present themselves as neutral and a party for peace, while at the same time aiding and abetting Russia’s war effort.
QUESTION: What sanctions are on the table to prevent them from providing this aid?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, there are a multiplicity of possible sanctions. I don’t want to get into the details. But what we’ve said to them very directly, including in a meeting I had with their senior foreign policy official in Munich last week, is that this would be a serious problem in our relationship.
QUESTION: There’s trying times in America for people financially, and oftentimes we might sit back and hear about what’s happening in Ukraine and hear about the money that the U.S. is pouring into Ukraine and the resources that we’re pouring into Ukraine. Why are we doing that, for those that are watching and asking that same question?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: So first, the taxpayers have been incredibly generous, and we have to make sure that we’re using their money wisely in Ukraine. Two things. First, I think viscerally most Americans don’t like to see a big country bullying another, and they just feel it’s wrong and want to do something about it.
But fundamentally, what’s going on is this: After two World Wars, the world came together and started the United Nations. And the objective was to prevent another world war. And countries around the world agreed on some basic rules, some basic principles like one country just can’t attack its neighbor, it can’t try to seize its land by force, can’t try to erase it from the map, can’t bully it. That’s exactly what Russia is doing. So, its aggression against Ukraine isn’t just an aggression against the people of Ukraine; it’s an aggression against those very principles that are at the heart of maintaining peace and stability. So, if you let that go unchecked, Pandora’s box open, aggressors everywhere come out; we’re living in a world of conflict.
QUESTION: And Michelle, real quick, there’s a second part to my question as I’m talking about resources that we are pouring in. We’re providing weapons as well.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We are.
QUESTION: And forgive me if this is a question that should be self-understood, but does that mean that it puts us in a position of a disadvantage? Do we have enough weapons for ourself to protect and serve this country?
QUESTION: David Martin reported just last night that we have low stockpiles in some key areas, and if there were a conflict we’d run out of, for example, air-to-ship missiles very quickly.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: So, I can tell you that the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley are extremely vigilant about making sure that whatever happens we always have what we need to defend ourselves – wherever it’s needed.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: At the same time, of course, these weapons have had a real effect on Russia’s military. Russia’s got about 80 percent of its ground forces committed to Ukraine. They are taking terrible losses, terrible losses in personnel – public accounts, 200,000 killed our wounded – and then their own tanks, their own weaponry is being destroyed by the Ukrainians.
QUESTION: Back to your point about the new world order, where are we? I mean, we came out of two World Wars, we had a Cold War. Are we back where we started? Russia now announced that it’s suspending participation in the singular remaining nuclear pact with the U.S. So, I mean, are we back to a state that we were in with the Soviet Union?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: So, I don’t think so, and here’s why. Just yesterday, again in New York at the UN General Assembly, 141 countries – well over two-thirds of the countries at the United Nations – again stood up and voted against the Russian aggression, spoke out against it – for peace, condemning what Russia was doing. That’s the third time that’s happened over the course of this war, more than 140 countries standing up to do that.
So, I don’t think we’re looking at the world dividing into rigid ideological blocs the way we saw during the Cold War. At the same time, you’re exactly right, Michelle; the Russians pulling out, suspending their participation in this arms control agreement – deeply irresponsible. Even during the Cold War, we had arms control agreements. We have a responsibility to do everything we can to reduce the role of nuclear weapons. We’re serious about that responsibility. Russia is not.
QUESTION: How – what is the U.S. opinion at this point of Vladimir Putin? He clearly is an aggressor. Is he somebody acting rationally? Is he somebody who you can imagine will pull out or seek peace in this year ahead?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Tony, one of the challenges we have is not always applying our frame of rationality to someone else. From our perspective, he hasn’t been because everything that he’s done has been to precipitate what he says he wants to prevent: Ukraine more united, more divided, hates the Russians for generations; NATO, the West more united, not divided. We have two new members that’ll soon join NATO. So that doesn’t seem rational.
On the other hand, if you look at what he’s said over the years, he’s obsessed with eliminating Ukraine as an independent country – absorbing it into Russia. It’s forming a new Russian empire. In that frame, I suppose there’s a logic to it. But what we know is this: It’s failing.
QUESTION: Yeah, it’s failing. It’s a brutal logic as well. Secretary Antony Blinken, thank you very much for being here. Appreciate it.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks.
QUESTION: Thank you. Really appreciate you.