tv The Situation Room CNN March 3, 2014 2:00pm-3:29pm PST
an endnsight. our cnn weather team says we'll see two more pushes of cold weather this week. >> erin mcpike, brutal. thank you. that's it for "the lead." mr. blitzer is in "the situation room." take it away. jake, thanks very much. happening now, breaking news, crisis in ukraine. russia's show of force, thousands of troops and crimean peninsula as russia issues an ultimatum. so what are america's options? the u.s. is looking for ways to isolate russia. will that stop putin's push against the ukraine? what makes putin tick? one world leader says he's in another world. and what does president want to restore what he sees as in the
world? i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." russia flexing its e-mails over the military exercise as president vladimir putin looks on. thousands of russian troops are already on the ground in neighboring ukraine in control of the strategic crimean region. russia has issued an ultimatum to ukrainian forces. a navy commander warning surrender or face an attack. those reports are, quote, utter rubbish. ukrainian defense officials say a dozen trucks have crossed into the crimean city of kurch. president obama said the united states is examining a series of
steps to to, quote, isolate russia. sanctions are being prepared even right now. we have the kind of coverage that only cnn can deliver, beginning with our chief national security correspondent jim sciutto. jim? >> clearly the administration is getting ready to act. no decision made yet on whether to impose those sanctions or, indeed, which sanctions to impose but they want to have the options ready. and today we heard the president warn that his goal is to isolate russia and make its actions in ukraine very costly. with russian troops now swarming, sovereigning ukrainian territory, preparing likely sanctions against russia. president obama vowing today to make russia's military intervention a costly proposition. >> what we're indicating to the russians is that if, in fact,
they continue on the projectory that they are on, we are going to have a negative impact on russia's economy and its status in the world. >> reporter: the possible sanctions include freezing the overseas assets of russian individuals and companies, banning travel for russian leaders and businessmen and at the more extreme end, blocking some russian banks from the international financial system, an enormously costly situation for russia. all of these require unity within the western powers and today a sign they could be divided. this official document caught on camera by a british photographer as it was cared to 10 downing street in london refers to
britain's support for key figures but says that the uk should not support for now trade sanctions or close london's fan financial centers. >> the cooperation of the european union is absolutely necessary. >> reporter: and russia has its own economic leverage. it controls more than 50% of the natural gas supply to europe. many of the key pipelines chris cris-crossing in europe. one key decision now is which individuals to target with sanctions and the administration is still deliberating but since the response would be to the russian intervention in ukraine, the likely targets would be top russian government and military officials to focus for now not on russian companies or businessmen but it has
potential for being very costly. a lot of money moves around europe. that has power. >> especially costly to a lot of countries like germany and europe who get a lot of their oil and natural gas from russia. >> no question. they also do a lot of business with russia. european countries would pay a price for this as well. >> john king is leaving later tonight for kiev. he'll show a statement of solitary for ukraine when he gets there. don't go too far away. jim sciutto is reporting. let's get back to the alleged russia's black sea fleet commander has more ukrainian effortses in crimea to swear allegiance to pro-russian authorities or face an attack. that report is being called rubbish. so what is the reality? joining me by phone is christopher miller. you heard this threat being issued by this russian commander. is that right?
>> i did, yes. that's correct. there was a group of about a dozen or so of us journalists and with other journalists and we were at the bay in sevastopol when the ukrainian ship was docked there with several dozen ukrainian soldiers, armed soldiers on board. they ran around frantically as a russian ship did circles in the bay in front of the ship. from that ship there was a loud speaker blaring an ultimatum essentially saying, lay down your arms, come to our side, join us. this went on for the better part of an hour, hour and a half in which this message was blurted out about every five to ten minutes. >> christopher, tell us precisely what you heard this russian commander say. >> uh-huh. well, the russian commander -- i
mean, it's unclear whether or not this is a russian commander from the ship. obviously it was just a voice coming from the speaker. but the message was clear. lay down your arms, come to our side, join us. and in response to that we saw these troops frantically running around the ukrainian ship. they were laying out mattresses on top of the railings. they were preparing water houses to repel a potential attack. >> so what was the reaction on the ground when this ultimatum was issued? >> it was extremely tense on the ground. the people we spoke with in the military that are here currently on the bases, those who have not defected say they will protect the bases were in a very serious, tense move today. certainly they were fearing an attack. some thought that it might be imminent. there have been numerous
ultimatums throughout the day from the russians, reportedly, some that we have heard but those ultimatums have come and gone. there was one at 5:00, one at 6:00, 7:00 local time and now we're waiting for another one supposedly at 5:00 a.m. so we'll see what happens. everybody is on edge here on both sides. >> christopher miller, the editor of the kyiv post. here's what the russian ambassador of the u.n. vitaly churkin said a while ago. >> translator: it's well known who created the crisis in u ukraine and disputing the actions of the authorities, some of our partners have taken a course to support anti-government statements. they have encouraged their participants who have moved to
aggressive actions of force and setting fire to buildings, attacking the police and making mocking officials in the region of crude intervention into churches, the center of kiev and western ukraine have been taken over by armed national radicals and extremists and anti-semitic slogans being used. >> russian anti-sem mitic sloga being used. moments later, the united states ambassador to the united nations, samantha power, fired right back. >> it is a fact that russian military forces have taken over ukrainian border posts. it is a fact that russia has taken over the ferry terminal in kurch. it's a fact that russian telephone services in some
areas. it is a fact that russia has surrounded or taken over practically all ukrainian military facilities in crimea. it is a fact that independent journalists continue to report that there is no evidence of violence against russian or pro-russian communities. >> strong words from the u.s. ambassador to the u.n. our own anderson cooper is joining us from the capital of kiev. anderson, what are you seeing, hearing there about the next steps? because this exchange between the u.s. and russian ambassadors at the u.n. -- we haven't heard these kinds of angry words going against each other making opposite points in a long time. >> reporter: and also reading n extraordinary letter which he says is from the former
president that fled a week ago asking for russian intervention in the country that he was formerly president of. the president asking for russian troops on the ground in the ukraine. an extraordinary letter from the former president here. you know, there's a lot of tension here, wolf, to say the least. there's a lot of concern. you talk to people on the streets, you talk to people down in independence square below where there are still protesters sleeping overnight and avow to stay there until the new government here in the ukraine follows through on the promises that they've made. you know, there's a lot of pride in the country, a lot of pride in what they've been able to achieve just in the last week with the overthrow of the president with the president leaving. but there's also a lot of concern about what happens next and about what russia's desires are, what russia intends to do, whether they intend to move into eastern parts of ukraine. as you know, they have called up
reserve forces today. it's going to be a ten-day training period for those reserve forces. you also talk to people -- i have 555-year-old, 65-year-old man who said he's ready to fight if it comes to that. they want to do whatever it takes to try to keep the ukraine together, a country they believe very strongly in, wolf. >> anderson cooper reporting from kiev. anderson will have much more later tonight. he'll be reporting live from ukraine. "ac 360" at 8:00 p.m. eastern only here on cnn. the financial markets are feeling the effects of the crisis. the dow plunged more than 150 points amid concerns about the escalating tensions. all of the major european markets closed slightly lower as well. stocks in russia took the biggest hit there. almost 11% on this one day. up next, russian troops are
on the move. they enter another town and consolidate their hold on crimea. how far will russia go and how far will the u.s. go to stop russia. could save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance.s everybody knows that. well, did you know that when a tree falls in the forest and no one's around, it does make a sound? ohhh...ugh. geico. little help here. i need>>that's my geico digital insurance id card - gots all my pertinents on it and such. works for me. turn to the camera. >>ah, actually i think my eyes might ha... next! digital insurance id cards. just a tap away on the geico app. i reckoreckon so.s a brewin'. reckon you gotta hotel? reckon, no. reckon priceline express deals will get you a great deal.
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the retired u.s. army general is joining me. thanks for coming in. if you take a look at russian forces versus ukrainian forces, 845,000 russian troops, 129,000 russian troops, tanks, two to one, combat aircraft, nearly 1400. russian combat aircraft, 221. there's no match. >> no. >> between those two militaries. so if it came down to a war between ukraine and russia, it's over. >> but ukraine has -- is part of a much larger organization in the european community and i don't think it would just be russia against ukraine. >> let's talk about that. let's hope the russias don't decide to move beyond crime and move eastward toward kiev arguing that the president yanukovych, he's still the president, he needs help to --
because of what we just heard vitaly churkin just say. you think if the ukrainian military took up arms and started to fight the russians, they would get the backing of nato? >> there is a provision in what is called the partnership for peace framework document 1994, heads of state summit, president clinton was there. ukraine is a partner as is russia. in that document it says that that nation, ukraine, can come to the north atlantic council of nato if their territory integrity is threatened, their security is threatened, it can come and say, we would like to bring our attention. >> would nato come to the defense of ukraine? >> i think if the u.s. would invoke that to the north atlantic council because that is part of the agreement, i think that the united actions by nato could have an effect to deter
what russia may or may not do with troops. >> but they have to agree. you've got to get germany, you've got to get all of the nato allies on board. they have been hesitant to act. >> many of them are very concerned that this is a portend of the future. look, there are ethnic russians in estonia and a western outpost in europe. this can have an effect, i think, if action isn't taken not just military, political, diplomatic, economic. >> i'm going to show our viewers new video just coming in. these are russian troops. they are fully operational. they are dressed in military uniforms. they are now on the ground in ukraine in crimea. >> so you have -- you have -- i
don't know if there is any fighting yet. i haven't heard of any fighting taking place. >> the russians say they are being warmly welcomed by the ethnic russians. >> it's the ethnic russians and that's a large number, a percentage. but i truly think there are some actions that the u.s. can take but particularly more with the united nato and -- >> so what i hear you saying, general, is not what i'm hearing obama administration officials saying. you're saying all options should be on the table including the military option. what i hear from members of congress, including critics of the president and from the obama administration, no one is thinking boots on the ground. >> i'm not thinking boots on the ground at this stage. i think what we feed to be able to do is shore up this alliance from which we've been a member since 1949. if it takes the president getting into a plane and going to brussels to convene showing that leadership, it, to me, is
worth it. but i think you've got to get the nato alliance behind you what you're doing here. >> you also have to get the american people behind such a move and i suspect after iraq and afghanistan, there's no great desire to dispatch nato and u.s. troops to fight in ukraine. >> i agree. no troops. but there's a lot more you can do with troops. >> it starts with air power but that can quickly escalate. >> look, we've fought two world war ins last century over europe. if we don't have a vested interest to try to deter or prevent this from escalating, i think i fear for our future generations of americans. >> general, thanks for coming in. >> thank you. >> the former nato supreme allied commander. coming up, does the russian president vladimir putin think he's winning in this showdown? i'll speak with one winning columnist who says yes.
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right now the obama administration isrenctions. some allies are readying steps of their own. as russia tightens its grip on the crimea peninsula, why is this such a deep concern for the united states, indeed for the entire west. joining us now, our chief national security correspondent jim sciutto along with nicolas cristoff. guys, thanks very much. let's go to jim sciutto first. you've got a big map. there why should the u.s. be carrying as much as it does? >> the ukraine is not some distant land. it's right in europe here. just a reminder, these kroucouns neighbors europe, romania, hundr hungary, this is not a distant
land. to have this violent division righn t rl worry to these countries and to the u.s. because we're so close to them. why does russia care? let's look at this next round. we've heard a lot about sevastopol. this is the black fleet for russians. all of the winter ports up here are often not accessible. this is key because it gives them access to the mediterranean and this is the key national security interest when it comes to ukraine and crimea. that's why when 6,000 troops moved into the crimea, this is where they went first. right around sevastopol. it's not a key issue for just the west but certainly for russia. >> let me bring you into this conversation. i know a lot of americans are watching right now. given the awful experiences with sending hundreds and thousands of troops to iraq and afghanistan, the last thing they want to hear is that the u.s. and nato may use military force.
there's a growing isolation tendency in the united states, isn't there? >> yeah, i think there is. you don't have to be an isolationist to think that nato is not the right vehicle. i disagree with your last guess on that issue. you know, i think that our first issue here is try to avoid a deterioration and there is fighting in crimea and that russian troops will push into eastern ukraine and i think the nato is not going to be helpful in that sphere. we can talk about banking sanctions and other things. i don't know that we have a lot of leverage but nato is not the right thing here. >> what do you think putin would do about pulling his troops out of crimea and into eastern ukraine? >> i'm not sure that much would deter him aside from military force. he's not a man who responds well to diplomacy. sanctions don't seem to be much of a threat in the short term so
i don't think there is much that can be done. >> so do we just stand by and watch what happens? is that what you're saying? >> i'm not sure that we stand by and watch what happens but what the administration is proposing, sanctions and visa bands, these are not going to stop what putin is doing in ukraine. it's going to isolate him in the long term but what the administration is considering is not going to stop what is happening right now. >> for putin, the crimea and all of ukraine is so strategically important. he's willing to see sanctions and the g-8 summit in june go away. what's so much more important is to have the grip over ukraine. >> yeah. that's true. i think that at the end of the day there are various things we can do that will annoy him at the margins. i do think, though, that he may be concerned that it's one thing to seize a town like eastern
ukraine. trying to figure out how you occupy all of eastern ukraine over the long run, you know, where you stop, what you do with your gas pipeline, i think all of these issues are really difficult ones for him that present him with a lot of difficulties and, of course, today both the russian stock market voted against putin and he does have to be concerned to some degree about the long-term economic consequences. >> you know, jim, the whole country of ukraine is pretty divided and i want you to explain to our viewers how that unfolds here is 75% that speak russian. all over 50%. once you get into the russian side of ukraine boarding these nato allies here and here, we're looking at only 5% ethnic russian up here in the western parts of ukraine and that's
reflected in the pool between east and west. many people feel the pull between russia, deep historic cultural ties. many people here feel the pull towards the eu and the u.s. in 2010 when voters went to the polls, this part of the country voted for the pro-russian candidate, viktor yanukovych, this part voted for tymoshenko, until a week ago was in prison. >> you think putin thinks he's winning? >> absolutely. not necessarily that he's winning this. i wrote this column at the beginning of this conflict. i think he started this because he thinks he's winning. we have to remember that in 2004, 2005, there was an orange revolution that ousted a pro-russian candidate and put in place a pro-western prime minister. putin didn't start a warthen. why is he starting one now?
because he knows that the united states and europe is not going to challenge him on this. >> thanks to you. jim sciutto, stand by. when we come back, inside vladimir putin's mind. a closer look at what this unpredictable president's next move could be. plus, is putin to blame in the crisis? why one leading analyst suggests that the western media is getting this whole thing completely wrong.
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unpredictable. what makes vladimir putin tick? our own brian todd has been taking a closer look. brian? >> wolf, that is such a crucial question right now because we're all trying to figure out what vladimir putin is going to do next. at the moment, putin is setting the pace. the rest of the world is reacting and that seems to be just the way he likes it. he's on the scene as his army rehearses for war. the world is hanging on to scenes like this, wondering what could be next. what's inside vladimir putin's mind. angela merkel offered her own assessment. she said she wasn't sure he was in touch with reality, according to "the new york times." she reportedly said he was, quote, in another world. >> he really believes president putin, that somehow crimea is until danger from what the russians call terrorists who are in kiev. this means maybe he's not as well briefed on the situation as
he could be. >> reporter: others believe putin is very much in touch with the reality he sees, the upheaval in ukraine. >> putin wants to restore the russian empire, which ukraine is the crowned jewel. >> reporter: and crimea is the shining core of that crowned jewel, a region crucial, analysts say, for two reasons. to putin's goal of uniting the people once under soviet's control and for access to the black sea. what also drives the former kgb colonel is an open resentment of the way the cold war ended. >> he said in 2005 is the fall of the soviet union. >> reporter: analysts say he sees america and its allies as a threat to that. >> to the degree i think that he's paranoid, it is that he sees the west as out to do in
russia. whether it's libya or syria or iran or ukraine, he sees western actions as uniquely attempting to undermine russian power. >> reporter: but putin could also be feeling emboldened in ukraine. >> mr. putin basically thinks that president obama and the americans and the europeans are kind of wimps. and that he can roll them when he sees fit. >> reporter: between that bravado and the alleged fear how far vladimir putin will take all of this. will he be the ruthless commander who pushes this further into ukraine and ignites a war or will he park his forces in crimea and stay there? wolf? >> brian todd reporting for us, thanks very much. in the latest issue of "the nation" magazine, steven cohen is sharply critical of the
american news media. the coverage of russia and ukraine including putin. he's joining me along with christi christiane amanpour and newt gingrich. let's talk about your powerful article. what's wrong with the way that mainstream american media has covered putin? >> well, let's put it like this. what people are witnessing right now, we're watching the descent of a new cold war divide in europe. this time, not in berlin but right on russia's borders in ukraine. that's going to affect adverse ree our kids and our grandkids for decades to come and the american explanation, the american media political explanation is that putin alone is entirely to blame. and simply that is not so. we played a large role in bringing this horrible situation about. >> well, what is that role? you're saying putin is partly to blame, right? >> well, you know, reagan said
it took two to tango and that's absolutely true. i'm pushing back against the american narrative. the long story is -- and i'll give it to you short -- in the 1990s, president clinton decided to expand nato towards russia. russia is now on nato's borders. that's a military alliance. to make the short story in the foreground, in november, when this current crisis in ukraine began, putin said to washington and to brussels, to the european union, why are you forcing ukraine to choose between russia and the west? why don't we do a joint economic aid to ukraine and our answer was no, it's either/or. it's our way or the highway. and now you are where you are. >> let's let the former speaker newt gingrich respond. >> there's a lot to what he just said. >> a lot of accuracy? >> a lot of accuracy. the united states and european
uns have been trying to pull ukraine away from russia at a time when their natural gas in oil comes from russia. they are deeply in debt to the russians. crimea is, in fact, a russian naval base, it goes back 300 years as russian territory. and i think putin sent a lot of signals that he was going to do something sooner or later. i worry about this both in terms of crimea and what happens to ukraine but also in terms of what lessons does he learn about dealing with members of nato on the northern russian flank and it's very important that putin understands there are consequences to this kind of aggressiveness but i do think that the united states and europe did a lot to set up the crisis. >> christiane, go ahead. >> well, here's the thing. nobody is taking into account what the ukrainian people themselves want and they have voted over and again for a much different relationship than what
russia wants to do, which is pull them into its sphere and, as you know, i know what professor cohen is saying about this zero sum game but the europeans say, actually, we didn't say that. why aren't we able to have an association with ukraine and ukraine remain friendly and with its own associations with russia as well? as you know, what happened on february 21st with the three foreign ministers from france and from britain and from poland who signed that agreement with yanukovych, all of that happened and then there was a terrible order to kill dodzens and dozen of people. that is what happened after that. so where does this lead? it's very difficult to say. clearly, nobody wants to have a war over this. but i spoke with the former ukrainian foreign minister, a big, big player, and she basically is begging. she used that word begging for help knowing that there's no way ukraine can stand up to russia on its own if russia decides to expand its military
intervention. and look, you just heard what the general said. perhaps people would disagree with that but the united states went to war and lost a lot of people, wolf, over fighting in europe for freedom. and that is it why the u.s. and the west stand for. >> i want both of you to respond. first, newt gingrich. go ahead. >> the united states is not going to go to war over ukraine. the ukrainian -- the ukraine has to make some kind of accommodation. at the same time, we and the europeans have to send some signals to putin that are pretty clear that he cannot continue down this road. the world's going to become very dangerous. >> right. >> if putin thinks he can flex his muscles and continue to encroach on western territories that used to be in the soviet union. >> that's right. >> this is a very serious question. >> everybody hold on for a moment. professor cohen, stand by. we're going to continue this conversation. much more to discuss. clearly important issues are
i want you to read the lead story in "the new york times" today. chancellor angela merkel told mr. obama by telephone on sunday that after speaking with mr. putin she was not sure he was in touch with reality. people briefed on the call said in another world, she said. is she right? >> i don't know if it's an accurate report. but remember she said that about president george bush in 2010 when bush tried to fasttrack ukraine into nato and she stopped it. what i do know is this -- putin doesn't trust obama, doesn't think he's a resolute leader, doesn't think he can negotiate with him definitively. he trusts merkel, he speaks with her in german. they have a certain rapport. i would doubt very seriously that that was merkel's end of the story. i hope it wasn't because merkel is one of the key players that can end this crisis if it can be ended. >> looks to me like there's a
split developing between chancellor merkel and the president of the united states when it comes to what to do between russia and ukraine. >> we have to see how this plays out. but professor kohn is right. merkel does have the closest relationship and intricate business with russia, so she's a very big player. look, i don't know. i just wonder whether professor kohn thinks putin has overreacted. whether in the playground with kids, whether in school or in the military, there are rules of engagement. russia has signed up to protecting the territory integrity of ukraine. it was done under the budapest agreement in '94 and along with the u.s. and the uk. i mean, this is an international reality. unless we're ready to see these precedents set, surely there must be some way to negotiate a way back from this brink,
obviously protecting the rights of the ethnic roogs in crimea as well. >> there is a way out, but not until we recognize a reality. putin is not a thug, he's not trying to re-create the soviet union. what he is is a historic russian national leader. he's the most consequential leader of the early 21st century. he believes rightly or wrongly that he has a mission, mandated by history, to take russia which collapsed in 1991 and had collapsed in 1917 and restore its greatness at home, whatever that means and that includes securing its traditional zones of security. that means ukraine. putin said two years ago, three years ago, my red line -- you remember obama's red line? my red line is former soviet georgia. we had a war there in 208 and ukraine. he told us exactly what he thought. until we take that into ngt the
next thing that's going to happen is there's going to be nato troops on the board of western ukraine and putin's troops will flood into eastern ukraine, then all bets are off. >> go ahead. >> obviously putin has hiss mission and he clearly does see himself in the way that professor cohen just outlined. obviously there's been a major sort of argument over ukraine, but putin and the russians have by treaty their big black sea fleet in sevastopol in the crimea. there's no indication that the new ukrainian government was going to change that reality at all. you say that putin has telegraphed what his aims are and that he's not a thug, well, look, i would like you to explain to me how he and us can justify the trumping up of this hysteria in the crimea which has given the russians the ability to do what they're doing, whether it was the trumped-up change of government in the crimean parliament, whether the
trump-up call by this government for russians to come in and protect them when they were not being killed, professor cohen, no violence in the crimea. whether it's been the horrendous -- and i've done a lot of reporting on insightment toward war in russia. no, no, this is the facts. now you have the doer debating an annexation law. all of this is trumped up to provide putin with what you say and that his desire to protect their interests and to keep his sphere of influence. >> professor cohen. >> the extremism didn't come from russia. it was coming from western ukraine. we've left a large part of the story out. there's a small but resolute and determined right-wing nationalist movement in ukraine. it's quasifascist and it is dictating terms to this parliament in kiev which is not
legitimate in law or constitutional. this parliament which is a runt parliament because they banned the two that represented the east have been passing anti-russian legislation. they banned the use of russian as an official language. it isn't russia that's been spewing this ideological destabilizing message, it's been coming from the west. and here the worst part is that has been -- that hatred has been supported by washington and beris els in embracing this west ukrainian movement. that must stop. >> we're up against the clock, unfortunately, but to be concluded. professor cohen and christiane amanpour. you heard vitaly churkin saying earlier today that at fault for all of this are what he called fascists and anti-semites in ukraine uniright now. >> you have to be really careful by putting that across as a
fast. >> that's what he said. >> he may have done. are you telling me, are you saying that the entire pro european -- >> of course not, i was only saying. >> that is what the russians are saying. >> i was only saying what vitaly -- >> that's what professor cohen is saying. >> we heard professor cohen say it and i was pointing out that a russian official at the united nations today said who is responsible for all this, fascists and anti-semites in ukraine. am i saying that? no, i'm not. but i am saying that's what vitaly churkin said -- >> right. and we have to be very careful. >> we played it for you. >> i heard it. i heard it. we just as a network have to be really careful not to lump the entire pro-european ukrainians into what is -- >> we're not, i'm not. >> -- which are nationalistic and extremist. >> christianchristiane, we're n >> i'm an outsider. i hate to see a civil war break out on cnn. >> it's not a civil war. it's smart conversation. all right, i certainly wasn't
lumping all the pro ukrainians -- d at least we got that straight. because wolf, we're in "the situation room," man. >> put it on the air and call it the war room. ♪ [ male announcer ] she won't remember this, being carried in your arms. but after a day spent in the caribbean exploring mayan ruins and playing pirates with you in secret coves, she won't exactly be short on memories.
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up to $423. call... today. liberty mutual insurance. responsibility. what's your policy? breaking news. russian troops are on the move, they're seizing more ground. sources in ukraine confirm a great grave ultimatum for forces to surrender or face attack. the u.s. and its allies threaten to slap him with costly sanctions. president obama says russia is on the wrong side of history, but how far will he go to make putin pay? we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room."
russian forces conduct war games with president putin looking on in the midst of the most dire crisis in europe since the end of the cold war. we're following the breaking news in ukraine. russia's ambassador to the u.n. says ukraine's ousted president has sent a letter to putin askle him to use military force to restore law and order in his country. russian forces are strengthening their grip in the crimea region where ukrainian officials say they've declared war. up to 12 trucks of russian troops just crossed into an eastern crimean city from russia. sources inside ukraine confirm russian forces have issued an ultimatum for yur cranian forces to surrender or attack. russia's state news agency has reported a similar threat but now is denying any ultimatum.
we're told sanctions against moscow are likely and that the administration is moving quickly to draft specific language. cnn is bringing you this global coverage of this breaking news story as only cnn can. right now let's go to our senior white house correspondent jim acosta for the latest. >> reporter: wolf, president obama issued another tough warning to vladimir putin warning that the russians will be isolated if they remain in ukraine. the problem, though, at this hour is whether or not vladimir putin is even listening. facing what may be his toughest global test yet, president obama vowed to punish vladimir putin accusing the russian leader of violating international law in ukraine. as top administration officials listened in. >> if in fact they continue on with the current trajectory they're on, that we are examining a whole series of steps, economic, diplomatic that will isolate russia. >> reporter: the question is whether mr. obama's moves such
as threatening to scrap the upcoming g-8 summit, pulling the delegation from this week's paralympic games in sochi or even the sanctions that are expected next will have any effect on putin. republicans insist the president is showing weakness. >> this is the ultimate result of a feckless foreign policy where nobody believes in america's strength any more. >> reporter: it all goes back, the president's critics say, to that red line he drew over chemical weapon use in syria that was not enforced with military action. >> number one, stop going on television and trying to threaten thugs and dictators. it is not your strong suit. >> reporter: so far administration officials have downplayed any talk of military options to push russia out of crimea. >> i think it's foolhardy for our administration to have already done what it did, which was preemptively remove the military as an option. the president took that off the table. >> reporter: in putin the president has had an adversary
at every turn from syria to the national security leader ed-year-old snowden shacking up in russia. mr. obama has insisted a rivalry with put opinion. >> our approach in the united states is not see theses a some cold war chessboard in which we're in competition with russia. >> reporter: now republicans who are calling the president's jab at mitt romney for labeling russia as a u.s. foe. >> in the 1980s they're now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the cold war's been over for 20 years. >> reporter: the president urged his critics in congress to adopt his diplomatic approach. >> one thing they can do right away is to work with the administration to help provide a package of assistance to the ukraines. >> reporter: the president is choosing diplomacy sending secretary of state john kerry to ukraine with promises of aid for the ukrainiaukrainians. senate foreign relations chitty members are working on that package right now. a senior administration official
says the focus at this point is still to hurt vladimir putin and the russians economically, not militarily. let's go to the front lines of this conflict right now. our senior national correspondent ben wedeman is joining us live from the crimean region of ukraine. what are you seeing, hearing over there, ben? >> we're in seb avastopol where many think that this ultimatum issued by the forces here, the black sea fleet, will go into effect. they have said that if the ukrainian forces here in the crimea do not surrender or swear allegiance to the crimean regional authority, that they will be met with a, quote, unquote, military storm. now, we understand that the russians have denied that that ultimatum has been issued. and i have to tell you, the atmosphere in this city is pretty relaxed, very calm.
much more so than you might expect. now earlier this evening our crew went over and saw that there were about 30 young pro-russian protesters outside the headquarters of the ukrainian navy here, but it was a fairly small crowd waving some russian flags. our fixtures said some of them seemed to be under the influence of alcohol and some were leaving. despite the rertic, not quite as tense as you might expect here, wolf. >> ben wedeman in crimea for us. thanks, very much. a worst case scenario in ukraine. what the u.s. military would do and not do if russia refuses to back down. how does this crisis compare with russia's invasion of georgia? the independent country of georgia under george w. bush's watch back in 2008. i'll ask his former national security adviser. [ water splashing ]
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it appears that russia's being more open about its military movements in ukraine after sending unidentified troops into the crimean region, this video shows armored vehicles clearly bearing the colors of the russian flag. the pentagon obviously closely watching russia's moves. let's go to the pentagon where our correspondent barbara starr has more. >> don't look for any u.s. military involvement in this crisis, but the navy is still planning to send a war ship into the black sea towards the ukraine in the coming days, a regularly scheduled has been on the book for months, it's routine business, but of course right now nothing is routine.
fast moving russia military moves inside crimea are raising alarm. >> no country has the right to send in troops to another country unprovoked. >> reporter: more than 6,000 russian ground airborne and nato forces are now in place. crimea fully under russian control. it is a fact that russia has surrounded or taken over practically all ukrainian military facilities in crimea. it is a fact that today russian jets entered ukrainian air space. >> what you have are conventi conventional forces with an ability to conduct larger operations. >> reporter: the possibility of larger russian military operations with no advance warning is a major worry. the u.s. intelligence community and nato are urgently trying to figure out what the russians may do next. they are looking for any indication of troops inside russia moving to the border, looking at the direction and speed with which they could move
one official says. a worst case scenario? with no advance warning, russia could quickly send large numbers of fresh troops into crimea or the eastern ukraine. television images are a major source of intelligence. at this crimea base, armed russian troops so far not firing. but as more russian forces take their positions across the crimea, most ominous artillery is in place for longer range operations. >> you want to do your very best to destroy your enemy at a distance and not wait for him to close with you. >> reporter: there are also attack helicopters to support ground forces. all classic soviet era military tactics, which russian president vladimir putin made sure the cameras saw as he observed new war games in northwestern russia with no apparent concern the u.s. military would step in his path.
>> i have to be very honest with you. there is not a military option that could be exercised now. >> reporter: no military option for the u.s. at this point, but tensions rising and the u.s. is very worried right now, many sources tell us, this propaganda war, charges and countercharges flying back between moscow and kiev really could get out of hand and as these tensions rise, that alone, the proper gand da war, could spark conflict. a major worry, wolf. >> certainly is, barbara starr at the pentagon, thanks very much. let's dig a little bit deeper. we're joined by the former national security adviser to president george w. bush, stephen hadley, also with us are jim sciutto and our cnn political commentator carl bernstein who has been doing some reporting on what's going on. stephen hadley, first to you. how is this president doing? >> he's in the early innings. i think he has a real opportunity. this is a crisis that goes to
the heart of a 60-year project in europe and post cold war an effort to build europe whole free and at peace involves some of our closest allies. questions have been raised about the diffidence of his leadership. this is a real opportunity -- >> what would you do differently? >> what he's got to do in the short run obviously is we're trying to keep the russians from going further beyond crimea and to roll it back. but what he's got to do now is play for the long game. he's got to do three things. he's got to recommit to the security of europe and recommit to nato and reassure our friends and allies. he's got to convince our european allies to open the door and make it clear that these countries caught between europe and russia are welcome in nato and the eu and finally we've got to put real pressured on impose real costs on putin so that he understands that the extra teej tick price he's going to pay is too high. >> jim, you've been doing a lot of reporting on what the
administration is up to. it looks like they're trying to do exactly what stephen hadley is recommending. >> they do. but for now in the category of diplomatic and financial sanctions. they're drawing up the target on russian military officials and government officials involved specifically in this action in yearn ukraine. asset freeze, travel bans, that kind of thing. one thing i wonder, we talked a lot about how military options are off the table. there are options in the military category on the table, though, still, aren't there? for instance barbara referred to sending a u.s. ship into the black sea, previously scheduled exercises. are there other things the u.s. can do short of firing anything or putting boots on the ground? >> i think there are. when we went through this in 2008 in georgia, we also sent a ship into the black sea. we also actually delivered humanitarian assistance on the ground in georgia through u.s. military c-130 aircraft. we told the russians we were
doing it, we thought that was a useful signal. >> didn't deter the russians, though, from invading george ya on your watch. >> it does deter them from what their revised objective was, which was to go to tblisi and overturn the government. >> but you're saying they stopped at a certain point. >> they did. >> based on that experience they went into georgia, a neighboring country back in 2008 when george bush was president and, as you correctly point out, you remember a lot better than i do, there was a u.s. military aircraft that sent in humanitarian aid. but the russians, they were not really deterred from staying put. they didn't go to tblisi, obviously. >> they did not go to tblisi. and at the end of the day they withdrew back into abkhazia where the troops were. >> hold on a second. before you go to a couple other things. hold your thought for a second. carl, i know you've been working this story as well. i know you have some good sources. angela merkel, there seems to be
a divide developing between president obama and chancellor merkel. >> that's the big problem. there's a meeting of the eu on thursday, a nato meeting and thus far no appetite by the german chancellor even though she despises putin and is making strong statements about the violation of ukrainian sovereignty, they're not about to go along with sanctions with real teeth. 40% of their natural gas in germany and half of their energy is from natural gas comes through the pipeline from russia. it is a terrible vice that the russians have on the germans. there's going to be real face-off among the allies as to how to find a unanimous path that can have some teeth and at the same time look for a way out that putin can pull back. they're looking actively what can putin be offered that
somehow will make him take a step backwards rather than to continue the kind of belligerence that we've seen. >> one of the reasons the markets were all down, down, down in europe today, here in the united states, elsewhere, especially in russia -- and stephen hadley, i want you to wear in on what we just heard from carl with this. there's so much economic impact and a lot of the europeans they don't want tough sanctions is on russia because they'd pay a serious price in the process. >> look, the interdependence of those economies means that disruption is a problem for the buyer of the gas and the oil, in this case, the yu peens, it's also a problem for the seller since 50% of the revenue into the russian government comes from those -- the sale of oil and gas. look, this is early days. the germans are going to be a tough sell for obvious reasons. we had this same problem in the middle of 2008 when we wanted to try to get a membership action plan for georgia and ukraine.
the german chancellor was ada mentally opposed. we had a long meeting in bucharest, romania, at the end of the day we decided not to give a plan to georgia and ukraine but made it clear they'll be in nato. it will take some diplomacy. my guess is we'll come up with a series of measures we can take. but there are other things we can take besides -- >> hold on. carl, based on what you heard from your german sources, is germany going to stay away from what the president might like to see, a unified european nato sanctions effort against the russians. >> reporter: there seems to be little question they won't go along with syria sanctions that have real bite. at the same time the germans want a unanimous position of nato, of the allies because the germens think that what putin has done here is terrible. also there's a personal aspect of this that angela merkel despises putin even though they talk a lot and they talk in
russian and they talk in german, putin was the head of the kgb in dresden under the old soviet union. he has done things to angela merkel in terms of their dialogue that she just hates. and she feels taken advantage of, her country, by this action, but she doesn't know what to do. >> jim sciutto, you know, this one argument that's being made, especially the russians are making it, is that yanukovych, the ousted president, if you will, of ukraine, he was democratically elected by the people of ukraine. how does this fit? >> it's a difficult policy question for the obama administration. this is not the only place where you have elected leaders challenged by popular demonstrations. we're seeing it in thailand, egypt. it's a difficult question to answer because, you know, our policy is to support democratic elections. another point on divisions. you had this awkward moment when
a british official walk into 10 downing street was caring a policy letter that a photographer caught a picture of it and it showed like there was division there. it said that britain would support certain restrictions but not restrictions on trade with russia and not blocking russians from the financial center. >> i think they've all agreed to so far is suspend preparatory meetings leading to the g-8 summit in russia in june. stephen hadley, you're always welcome here in our "situation room." you used to spend a lot of time in the situation room when working for the president. talks with benjamin netanyahu. we'll get the latest on the push for middle east peace. life could be hectic. as a working mom of two young boys angie's list saves me a lot of time. after reading all the reviews i know i'm making the right choice. online or on the phone, we help you hire right the first time. with honest reviews on over 720 local services.
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stay with cnn for the latest on the breaking news out of ukraine. much more coming up. right now, though, here's a quick look at some of the other stories we're following. president obama prodding israel offering new assurances. he met with the prime minister benjamin netanyahu at the white house today. the president reaffirming his commitment to preventing iran from developing nuclear weapons and he urged israel to make what he called tough decisions and compromise to make peace with the palestinian. first witness has been called in the murder trial of the south african paralympic and olympic track star oscar pistorius. a neighbor said she heard a woman's blood curdling screams on the night pistorius shot and killed his model girlfriend reeva steenkamp.
pistorius has pleaded not guilty to murder. he said he mistook steenkamp for a burglar. more than 2800 flights have been canceled today because of a light winter storm dumping snow on the mid-atlantic area including right here in washington, d.c. as well as in baltimore and philadelphia. the federal government was closed for business today here in washington as heavy snow fell overnight and through much of the day throughout the d.c. area creating dangerous roads and power outages. remember, you can always follow us on twitter. you can tweet me @wolf blitzer. tweet the show @cnn sit room. thanks very much. now let's step into the "crossfire" with hosts newt gingrich and sally kohn, they're debating president obama's response to the crisis in ukraine. guys? >> wolf, vladimir putin's giving republicans a new excuse to play their favorite game, criticize the prest.