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Russia Approves Sending Troops to Ukraine
Aired March 1, 2014 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer in the CNN NEWSROOM. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. We're tracking breaking news out of Russia and Ukraine this hour. Let's get right to it.
We're following a developing and very fast moving situation unfolding in Ukraine. Today, Russian parliament approved the use of Russian military force inside Ukraine after president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, requested it. But Putin's adviser tells Russian state TV he hasn't decided if he will use that force. At least not yet.
In one hour, the United Nations Security Council in New York is holding an urgent meeting on the developing situation.
We've also learned that U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke to his Russian counterpart today.
In Ukraine meanwhile, protesters on both sides are taking to the streets once again including on the capital city of Kiev. Pro- European Union demonstrators are furious over Russia's latest moves. And in pro-Russia regions of Ukraine, demonstrations turned violent.
That's in Kharkiv, in eastern Ukraine, pro-Russia protesters broke into an administration building.
All of this comes less than 24 hours after President Obama warned there should not be military intervention in Ukraine. A strong warning from the president of the United States.
Our correspondents are following the reaction around the world. Jim Acosta is over at the White House, Fred Pleitgen in Moscow, and Diana Magnay is live in the Crimea region of Ukraine. Elise Labott is live in Washington. She's getting reaction from the State Department and elsewhere.
Let's go to the White House, first, the reaction coming in from White House significant. Our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is standing by with the very latest.
What's going on, Jim?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And I have to tell you, we have not heard from the president, have not really heard from this White House in an official capacity since yesterday evening regarding what steps might take place next when it comes to Ukraine.
I can tell you right now, Wolf, and really, there's nothing to confirm at this point, but there's a large number of big black SUVs parked outside the West Wing. That's something that we've just seen develop in the last 45 minutes or so.
We're trying to find out whether or not there might be what they call a principle's meeting over here at the White House. That is when the president convenes his top national security and intelligence officials over here at the White House to talk about pressing national security and foreign affairs matters.
We're waiting to find out if there's any word on that. You've heard the reporting from Barbara Starr about the Defense secretary talking to his counterpart over in Russia, but, Wolf, this president is starting to come under some political pressure to do more since we heard that statement over here at the White House yesterday.
Senator John McCain, who has been a critic of the president's foreign policy, released a statement in just the last 15 minutes, saying that he is, quote, "deeply concerned that Russia's ongoing military intervention in Crimea may soon expand to eastern Ukraine." Yesterday President Obama said that Russia would face costs if it intervened militarily in Ukraine.
It is now essential, Senator McCain said, for the president to articulate exactly what those costs will be and to take steps urgently to impose them.
And, Wolf, we did hear about some of those potential cost last night. As you know, a senior administration official told reporters that the United States is now weighing whether or not it will go to the G-8 Summit in Sochi in June later on this year because of this ongoing situation. This senior administration official saying it's hard to imagine how the U.S. could attend such a meeting if Russian forces are in Crimea in Ukraine. That's how serious it's gotten at this point.
BLITZER: Jim, we know that after the president was in the Briefing Room late yesterday afternoon making that statement, saying there will be costs if the Russians intervene military inside Ukraine, he then went about his business as usual, his scheduled, meeting with Democratic Party leaders.
What's on his schedule today? Was there anything on his schedule today? You see all those parked SUVs over there in the driveway in the area along the West Wing of the White House.
ACOSTA: That's right.
BLITZER: I assume they -- if there is a principals meeting, maybe they're meeting in the White House Situation Room.
ACOSTA: That's right, Wolf, and I'm just hearing from our photojournalist who is manning what we call the fence cam, that's the camera that we have positioned on that entrance into the West Wing, we're hearing General Dempsey has just walked out of the White House, out of the West Wing, in the last few minutes, so we're trying to get as much information as we can, so it does appear, at least from our vantage point, from what we can see at this point, that some of the president's top military and national security officials may be meeting over here at the White House.
But you're right, Wolf, the president last night, after he made that statement, that dramatic statement, although cautious statement, here at the White House, he went over to the Democratic National Committee --
BLITZER: I just want to interrupt for a second. Hold on. That's --
ACOSTA: Yes, sir.
BLITZER: That's General Clapper, the head of the National Intelligence, the chief of National Intelligence, who's just getting in the SUV. So if Martin Dempsey, the chairman to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has already left, got into an SUV, there's Clapper getting into an SUV driving away from the White House, so I assume this is a major meeting that was going on and I assume it was also designed to brief the president of the United States on what's going on.
ACOSTA: That's right, Wolf, and you're looking at the same pictures that I'm looking at right now, so this is happening right now. I believe that is the CIA director on crutches getting into that GMC SUV there. That appears to be Secretary Hagel. Is that --
BLITZER: Chuck -- yes, that's Chuck Hagel, that's Chuck Hagel getting into the other one. That -- yes, that was Chuck Hagel.
ACOSTA: Wolf, I think --
BLITZER: That's John Brennan, the CIA director.
ACOSTA: That's John Brennan, the CIA director. So, Wolf, I think what we're seeing right now is that this principals meeting over at the White House has just broken up. I should not call it a principals meeting. Folks at the White House might get mad at me for saying that because they haven't announced it yet, but when you see individuals like that coming out of the West Wing on a day like today, that is a very big indication that a principals meeting has just occurred over here at the White House, potentially in the situation room.
We don't know the location at this point, but of course those developments will come in hopefully shortly -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And they're gearing up for a meeting at the United Nations Security Council to -- at least an informal session to consider this crisis and I think it's fair to call it a crisis in Ukraine right now.
The Russians, as you and all of our viewers no, they have a veto at the U.N. Security Council, so any resolution that will be critical of Russia will be vetoed by the Russians. ACOSTA: That's right. And that is why this president is in a bit of a box when it comes to Russia and you'll recall last year, Wolf, when Edward Snowden sought political asylum, the president cancelled that bilateral meeting that he was scheduled to have with Vladimir Putin before the G-20 Summit in St. Petersburg. And so there are some diplomatic levers that the president can switch in terms of improving or not improving relations between the United States and Russia, and so the president has those types of options at his fingertips.
But obviously military options, those types of options, those aren't going to be considered at this point. But, you know, what this senior administration official was telling me yesterday is that Russia has to be concerned not only about what can be imposed in terms of this G-8 Summit perhaps being scrapped to trade deals that the Russians would like to have being scrapped, but that their general standing in the world.
They just put off or pulled off an Olympic Games ceremonies in Sochi. They want to have this G-8 Summit. Vladimir Putin wants to raise Russia's profile on the world stage. This administration official saying to me yesterday that organically speaking, the Russian president is putting that in jeopardy if he continues to go down this road -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I assume someone from the administration at a very high level if not the president will be making a statement shortly to update us on what's going on.
Stand by, Elise Labott --
ACOSTA: That's right.
BLITZER: -- is getting some more information for us. Our foreign affairs reporter.
Elise, what are you learning?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, Wolf, senior administration officials tells me indeed the principals meeting took place, so that would be all of President Obama's top national security advisers and you saw some of them getting out of those -- getting into these SUVs and leaving the White House. A clear indication that the administration is very concerned about what's going on in Ukraine.
BLITZER: There's no doubt that they're obviously concerned but the options for the U.S. right now, it seems to be murky. The president said there will be cost -- there will be a price that Russians will pay if they intervene, if they get involved militarily inside Ukraine. We know some Russian troops are already in Crimea, a pro-Russian part of Ukraine. But there are limits to what the U.S. might do.
LABOTT: Very limited, Wolf. And you heard some of the options that you and Jim were talking about. Perhaps boycotting the G-8 meeting, ending these trade talks, about deeper trade and commercial relations with Russia. Obviously, President Putin has made the calculation that he doesn't care about this. He's willing to pay the cost for that and this is, you know, a zero sum game for him, Ukraine, very important.
I think obviously trying to demonstrate by going into Crimea, that he wants to maintain this influence in Ukraine, but now it's going to be really incumbent on President Obama to galvanize the international community to show Russia that there will be a cost. Clearly, right now, he doesn't see that cost.
You have this emergency meeting at the U.N. Security Council right now, but they can't do anything to Russia either because, as you know, Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council, has a veto. So this is going to be solved, Wolf, diplomatically.
How can the United States, Europe, the international community, show Russia that, A, there will be a cost, but B, if they're willing to be part of the solution and not part of the problem, they can still have a very close relationship with Ukraine, good economic and diplomatic relations. They don't have to invade the country.
BLITZER: John Kerry, the secretary of State, was he -- I assume he was, if he's in Washington, he was over at the White House for this so-called principals meeting. We saw Martin -- General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Chuck Hagel, the secretary of Defense, James Clapper, the health of National Intelligence -- where's Kerry?
LABOTT: He is -- we don't know where he is right now, but clearly, he has a very close relationship with Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister. You've seen some talk about possibly the Russians recalling their ambassador to the United States back to Moscow, but that's not really where the business between the U.S. and Russia is done right now, Wolf.
It's done between capitals, it's done between the White House and the Kremlin, it's done between Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov. And Secretary Kerry has had some positive effects in his relationship with Sergey Lavrov. They work together on this deal for the Russian chemical weapons. They put together those peace talks in Geneva. We haven't -- on the Syrian crisis, we haven't seen a lot of progress yet but clearly they are determined to work together and this is -- I think you should look for Secretary Kerry to get much more involved in dealing with the Russian foreign minister as this moves forward.
BLITZER: Yes, we know the vice president, Joe Biden, has been deeply involved in this crisis as well.
Stand by. I want to go to Moscow right now. Fred Pleitgen is on the scene for us. We're getting some signals from the Russians that they're ready to send significant military force, use significant military force in Ukraine, given what they say is the pro-Russian attitude at least in Crimea.
What is the very latest, Fred, in Moscow?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Vladimir Putin certainly has gotten the go ahead from Russian parliament to send troops into Ukraine. There was a motion today after Vladimir Putin asked for the authority to send Russian troops into military operations into Ukraine. The -- the Russian parliament voted on that measure and voted unanimously to approve that measure.
So right now Vladimir Putin has complete authority to do whatever he wants in sending troops into Ukraine. The big question is he doing that -- getting this approval retroactively? That means, are these troops already there.
You'll recall, Wolf, over the past 24 hours, the Ukrainian government has said that they believe the Russians have already put somewhere between 2,000 and 6,000 troops on to Ukrainian's soil. There were Russian cargo planes that apparently went into airbases on the Crimean Peninsula or is this something that is still going to happen.
Because we do have to keep in mind that the Russians could move in forces very, very quickly. They have a large scale military operation that's going on just outside of Ukraine involving some 150,000 Russian troops. And just to put that into perspective, that's about the number of troops that the U.S. had on the ground in Iraq during the height of the Iraq war. That's right next door to Ukraine right now. And they could move at any time.
The vibes that we're getting from politicians here on the ground is that most of them say they believe that if a force is put together, it would be a very small, a very limited force and as you said, the spokesperson for Vladimir Putin has said it's not even clear if Vladimir Putin is going to use additional troops, because clearly, at this point in time, it seems as though Russian forces that are on the ground that seemed to be working together with pro-Russian militias there in the Crimea seemed to have the situation under control.
But the big question is, of course, Wolf, what is Moscow's end game in all of this. What do they want to achieve? Clearly, the Crimean Peninsula is very, very important to them. Both historically, they fought very hard for it in World War II as well as militarily, strategically, to have that big naval base there, the home of the Black Sea Fleet, and of course, the majority of the population is not only Russia leaning, but is in fact Russian -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. That's absolutely true. The eastern part of Ukraine, especially Crimea, most ethnic Russians. They speak Russian, they feel very close to Russia. Not necessarily the same situation Kiev elsewhere in Ukraine, as we're all getting to learn a lot more about this country.
It's, what, approaching 10:15 p.m. over in Moscow right now. What's been the reaction specifically to that statement from the president of the United States warning the Russians if they intervene militarily, there will be a price, there will be a cost to Russia?
What's been -- how is that playing over there in Moscow -- Fred?
PLEITGEN: Well, there was -- there was a lot of anger about it. There were members of parliament -- in Russian parliament who called for, as we've already said, for Russia to recall its ambassador to the U.S. That's something the Russian president's office had said they're not going to make a call on that at this point. It really seems as though that is sort of a side show in all of that, where as the main thing is, of course, the situation in Ukraine.
It doesn't appear as though the Russians are anywhere near recalling their ambassador. It doesn't seem as though the situation has deteriorated to that point yet. But in Vladimir Putin's calculation, it seems as though the pressure that's coming from the international community, the pressure that's coming from the U.S., of course they're listening to that. But that is not the main factor for their decision making at this point in time.
A lot of it for domestic consumption, Vladimir Putin is under a great deal of pressure to have a tough stance on the Ukraine issue. If there were any sort of thing that happens in the Crimean Peninsula, if Ukrainian forces tried to take it back, if any Russians were to die in anything like that, the Russians could not shy back from a larger scale intervention, so Vladimir Putin wants to be seen very tough on this issue.
There's a lot of Russians in the public that want him to do that. So certainly that's at the center of his equation. At this point in time, it seems as though all the things that are coming out of the international community, the threat of a boycott of the G-8 meeting in Sochi is something that just simply pales into comparison to what it could lose if it loses its face in the Crimean and -- if the Russians in the Crimean come to any sort of harm. That would be a very, very big blow to Vladimir Putin and indeed to Russia -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Fred Pleitgen in Moscow is watching what's going on. A tense situation clearly unfolding.
We're going to await to see what happens in Washington, it looks like the top leaders, the National Security advisers to the president just wrapped up a meeting over at the West Wing of the White House. We'll see who emerges to speak on behalf of the Obama administration.
We're continuing our breaking news coverage right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
BLITZER: Once again, I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. There are major developments unfolding right now in Ukraine. And the United Nations Security Council in New York is going to hold what's being described as an urgent meeting right at the top of the hour. That would be 2:00 p.m. Eastern here in the United States.
Only moments ago, we saw several members of the president's National Security team leaving the White House. There's General James Clapper, the head of National Intelligence right there. They met in the West Wing of the White House. We expect to get some information on what was discussed fairly soon. Several hours ago, Russia's parliament approved the use of military force in Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin's longtime adviser telling Russian state TV, though, that Putin has not made a decision on whether to use military force. And he also apparently hasn't made a decision on whether recall the Russian ambassador to the United States, something Russia's parliament actually asked for today.
Ukraine's government has condemned the Russia's approval of military use calling it, and I'm quoting now, "direct aggression." And the opposition leader has called for Ukraine's parliament to convene right away.
Let's go to Ukraine right now, to Crimea, specifically, a heavily Russian region of the country. It's been very tense there since Ukraine's president was voted out of office last week. The region's pro-Russian leader asked for Russian forces to come help maintain some semblance of peace.
Our own Diana Magnay is joining us from Crimea.
What's the latest there, Diana?
DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf, well, the question is, is whether the authorization of troops is just de facto authorizing what's already happening here or whether the Russian president is going to be sending in more troops because frankly, if you look at what's happened over the last two days, it's almost like a kind of coup, except that these forces on the ground, these gunmen, who are very strongly present and visible today, surrounding all the government buildings here -- Simferopol, they have surrounded airport facilities and I talked to them today.
You know, we were unclear whether they were definitively Russian troops, although it was difficult to imagine that they were anyone else. And I asked one of them today, where are you from, and he probably accidentally went, I am from Russia.
And what they have done is that on Thursday a pro-Russian new leader was elected to rule this region. Now the whole city is affectively under control of local pro-Russian militias backed by these gunmen. These Russian troops. And the situation is peaceful.
And furthermore, all day today, Wolf, there have been jubilance, rallies held by pro-Russian supporters. You know, you would hardly believe walking the streets today that there are people in Crimea, which is a very ethnically, culturally diverse region, who don't want to simply belong to Russia.
And they've brought forward, the date of a referendum to the end of March, when Crimea will decide whether or not it wants to stay part of Ukraine or whether it wants to be its own separatist state. So all in all this appears to be a situation that has been very carefully engineered and massaged by Russia in any case -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And Crimea, being such a strategically important part, a (INAUDIBLE) port for the Russian such is strategically important region in that whole area. Is it really possible that such a vote would allow Crimea to succeed, if you will, from Ukraine, becomes either an independent country or become part of Russia? Is that really realistic?
MAGNAY: I don't think that it will become part of Russia, but let's look back at the history. Russia gave Crimea to Ukraine only in 1954, so I've talked to people today who say, you know, I'm Russian, I was born in the Soviet Union. I was handed over to Ukraine in the same way as Tuzla handed over, this man said to me in 1954. I feel Russian. I love Ukraine, but who wants to be handed over like that?
There's been a strong secessionist impulse in this region for a long time and I think what Russia seems to be doing here is giving a helping hand to those in this region who want their autonomy and who certainly don't want to be governed by a western looking Kiev.
BLITZER: All right, Diana, we're going to get back to you in Simferopol. We're going to get back to you in Crimea and get all the latest information.
Stand by. We'll take a quick break. Much more of the news, significant news unfolding right now. This is a real tense moment. Echoes of the Cold War clearly unfolding between the U.S., the Europeans on the one hand, Russia on the other hand. Ukraine, Crimea, right in the middle of this crisis.
We'll be right back.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
BLITZER: A lot of fast moving developments unfolding right now. We're going to try to attempt to put some of this into context. It's a complex situation, but in the words of the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, it's a dire situation right now.
Let's bring in Angela Stent. She's director of the Center for Russian Studies at Georgetown University in Washington. She's joining us from our Washington, D.C. bureau.
Angela, thanks very much for joining us. I know you've met with President Putin, what, some 10 times? You've got a new book entitled "The Limits of Partnership, U.S.-Russian Relations in the 21st Century" that just came out. So what do you make of what's going on in Ukraine right now, specifically Putin's latest moves clearly threatening direct military intervention?
ANGELA STENT, DIRECTOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY CENTER FOR RUSSIAN STUDIES: Well, the -- the main goal for Putin is to protect Russia's equities. They have this naval base in Sevastopol in Crimea. I think the Russians got concerned that this new government in Kiev might revisit the basing agreement with the Russians, which now doesn't expire until 2042, but he obviously is showing that Russia is tough. That I think it's no coincidence that just after the U.S. president said there will be costs to an invasion, you then get the request to the Russian parliament to approve the use of more forces going there.
So I think he is setting down a marker, he's saying Crimea really is pro-Russian and even though I don't think he wants to -- and next to Crimea, I think what he wants to happen is what happened in Georgia and what happened in Moldova, that you're going to have a de facto stapelet (ph) there that's going to operate free of anything that happens in Kiev, is going to be allied with Russia, and it will mean that Ukraine's territorial integrity with Russia guaranteed 20 years ago has now been irrevocably compromised.
BLITZER: Well, so would Crimea in effect secede from Ukraine?
STENT: I think in a de facto way, it probably would. Maybe not legally. It wouldn't join Russia. I don't think that's going to happen, although you never know, but it would in fact govern itself, be closely tied to Russia. There'll be Russian troops there as of course there have been since Ukraine became independent because of the Black Sea Fleet. And -- so it will operate really as an autonomous region and as all of your reporters have said, Crimea was not historically part of a Ukrainian state because it wasn't a Ukrainian state and their ties to Russia go back hundreds of years.
BLITZER: So the statement that the president of the United States made yesterday when -- it's a tough statement saying there will be costs if Russia militarily intervenes. Some are already suggesting that that sort of puts Putin on the defensive for his own domestic reasons to show that he's in charge. He then has to respond in a tit- for-tat kind of manner with a strong response to the American president. Is that your reading?
STENT: I mean I think that's part of it, but I think Russia was any way going to take -- to seize this opportunity with the revolution in Ukraine and with all this reaction, you know, 60 percent of the people who live in Crimea are Russians. He was going to seize this opportunity anyway to strengthen Russia -- strengthen Russia's hand there and to encourage the Crimeans in their separatist tendencies because what he doesn't want is a territorially intact Ukraine joining Europe.
He wants at least part of Ukraine to remain under Russian influence. So I think he would have done that any way. I think maybe the timing of these various statements may have to do with what the U.S. president said, but this is -- and it does play in the Russian audience, but he would have done that any way.
BLITZER: Angela Stent, stand by if you can because I want to bring in CNN's Fareed Zakaria, the host of "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS." He's joining us on the phone right now.
Fareed, this is a fast-moving situation. We just saw the top National Security Advisers to the president leaving the West Wing of the White House. They obviously have urgent meetings going on right now.
What are the U.S. options in dealing with this crisis?
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: I think the United States has several options. There could be, for example, Ukraine could ask for NATO consultations. The G-8 meeting is coming up if the president were to coordinate with some of the European countries, if the president and Angela Merkel, for example, would not go. Effectively that means there is no meeting.
If you have the G-8 meeting and you don't have the United States and Germany there, and frankly, probably Japan could be persuaded as well, then you don't have the -- you know, the big economies of the world.
I think there's things we could do with regard to the areas around Ukraine. You know, Poland, the Czech Republic. They have -- they have always sort stronger military ties with NATO. Missile defense system.
The important thing to remember, though, is we should be measured and we should be careful because this is not a -- any kind of a triumph for Putin. This is Putin's nightmare. He has Ukraine, which has been for 300 years, part of Russia, being severed off, joining the West.
Yes, he's desperately trying to find a way to keep Crimea within his (INAUDIBLE). But remember even in Crimea, there are lots of non- Russians. And so this is going -- this is going to -- this is going to change the relationship Russia has with all its neighbors. From Poland, the Czech Republic, of course, Ukraine, it's going to change the relations with Europe.
All -- and all of which is negative for Russia. So however we view this, let's not, as I heard John McCain and others doing last night, talk about this is some kind of Putin's master plan. This is a nightmarish situation where Putin is losing Ukraine and is desperately trying to salvage something out of it.
BLITZER: Because as you know, Fareed, the critics of Putin, especially in the United States, they've been arguing very, very vociferously that Putin's desires to recreate, if you will, a new Soviet Union, Russia with its influence throughout Eastern Europe in all of those area of the former Soviet Union. You don't necessarily buy that.
ZAKARIA: I don't. I mean, I don't think Putin is a nice man at all. I think that he -- what it seems to me, when you watch Putin, his main focus has been on reestablishing the Russian stated home, establishing a kind of dictatorship that could dominate, and creating a Kleptocracy where he and his associates could loops the Russian economy for tens of billions of dollars.
His foreign policy moves have not been, you know, that dramatic. There's the Abkhazia -- you know, the invasion of Georgia, which was to take the two pro-Russian pieces of -- tin tiny pieces of Georgia. But if you think about that in (INAUDIBLE) as if this man is a -- is a major imperialist with one of the largest armies in the world, that's not a particularly impressive fact record. And as I say here, he clearly much more -- much preferred the situation he had two weeks ago, where he dominated Ukraine, but informally.
The fact that he now has to send troops in and try to -- you know, wrestle control, literally detach Crimea from Ukraine, is a -- is a nightmarish situation for him. You know, he'll do it and I think we should -- we should oppose it and do the kinds of things I was describing. I think we should suspend Russia from the G-8 if there -- you know, if this continues, but I don't think that this really adds up to a victory for Vladimir Putin. It's going to negatively affect his relations with the Germans, with the European Union, almost certainly with -- you know, with other major countries, and of course with the United States.
BLITZER: We're showing viewers from yesterday, this video. Russian military helicopters flying over Crimea yesterday, an ominous sign that clearly got a lot of people very, very nervous, including causing the president of the United States to go out and make that strong statement nearly 24 hours or so ago.
We're standing, Fareed, at the top of the hour, the United Nations Security Council is supposed to meet in an urgent session. We're also waiting for a statement from the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's spokesman, Martin Nesirky.
There's limits to what the U.S. Security Council, Fareed, because Russia after all has a veto. If there's any anti-Russian resolution that's going to be vetoed.
ZAKARIA: Yes. The limits would be a very understated way of putting it, Wolf. There is zero chance that anything will come out of the U.N. Security Council because the Russians will veto it. And this does, you know, people are making Cold War analogies all day. This does remind one of the Cold Wars that the U.N. Security Council was essentially irrelevant because the Russians and the Americans disagreed on every major geostrategic issue, while here we have a classic situation like that.
Whatever happens here is going to happen outside of the U.N. I hope the Obama administration is not really wasting much time trying to work things at the United Nations. It's a fool's errand. The best thing to do would be to start consultations with our NATO allies, with Japan, possibly with China, which probably would -- you know, would also be -- I mean, the Chinese have usually taken a very tough line on the sovereignty of states.
That is to say they do not like situations where the sovereignty of a state is violated. Well, Ukraine's sovereignty is being violated right now.
BLITZER: One final question, Fareed, before I let you go. Yesterday, we heard, speaking of NATO, from the former NATO Supreme Allied commander, General Wesley Clark. He referred to Ukraine's being a member of what -- an organization that I haven't heard of for a long time, although I remember when it was created. Partnership for Peace, which allows Ukraine to have some sort of relationship with NATO.
And he said they should implement that, the government in Kiev, which is anti-Russian, they should implement that so-called Partnership for Peace resolution and get some sort of NATO involvement. What do you make of that? ZAKARIA: The Partnership for Peace, as you'll remember, Wolf, was a kind of NATO like for non-NATO members. So kind of countries like Ukraine, which were not formally part of NATO, were given all kind of almost associate membership.
And I think that the danger there and probably the reason the Ukrainian government has not done something about it is, look, the reality is that Ukraine is right next to one of the largest armed forces in the world. The Russian army. If Ukraine were to do something provocative militarily, like try to, like, go to NATO and say, you know, protect us, and the Russians were to invade, what exactly would NATO do? What does Wesley Clark then suggest NATO do?
You know, there's a great danger of using threats in international relations which is if you're called on them, you have to deliver, and is he suggesting that NATO would then send an armed force to protect Ukraine against Russia? That would require literally hundreds and hundreds of thousands of troops and where would they come from? What NATO country would be willing to do that?
So I think the Ukrainians for that reason are being somewhat careful. I -- I mean, I think there's certainty a role here for NATO and the European Union, but before we start ratcheting these things up and drawing lines in the sand, let's just be -- I think it's very important to figure out what happens if a line is crossed. Are you actually willing to do what you're saying you're willing to do?
BLITZER: I think you make an excellent point there, Fareed. All right, Fareed Zakaria, thanks very much.
Don't forget to watch Fareed's show, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS", Sunday mornings, 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Also 1:00 p.m. Eastern. He'll have an obviously very important show on this Sunday.
We're going to continue our breaking news coverage. We're waiting for a statement from the United Nations. The spokesman for the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is expected to make a statement. We'll have that for you.
There's also going to be a meeting of the United Nations Security Council. Stand by for that. All of the U.S. -- all of the ambassadors from the U.N. Security Council, they are now there at the United Nations.
We're also waiting -- I anticipate there will be some sort of statement coming from the Obama administration. The president's top National Security advisers just wrapped up a meeting over at the West Wing of the White House. I assume in the White House Situation Room. We saw the head of National Intelligence, the secretary of Defense, director of the CIA, and other top National Security officials, leave the West Wing only moments ago.
We'll continue the breaking news coverage right after this.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
BLITZER: There are major developments unfolding right now in Ukraine. The United Nations Security Council is also going to hold an urgent meeting on the situation at the top of the hour, 2:00 p.m. Eastern. All of this was set in motion earlier today after Russian parliament approved the use of military force in Ukraine.
Since then, President Vladimir Putin's longtime adviser told Russia's state TV Putin has not yet made a decision on whether to use that force and he also apparently hasn't made a decision on whether to recall the Russian ambassador to the United States, something Russia's parliament asked for earlier today.
Ukraine's government has condemned Russia's approval of military force, calling it direct aggression, and the opposition leader has called for Ukraine's parliament to convene right away.
President Obama addressed possible military action by the Russians when he spoke yesterday. He also said there would be repercussions for any Russian action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine. Russia has an historic relationship with Ukraine, including cultural and economic ties and a military facility in Crimea, but any violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Just in the last hour, the president met with his top National Security Advisers over at the White House. There you see some of them leaving the West Wing of the White House. The meeting included the Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the CIA Director John Brennan. No word yet on what came of that meeting. General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staffs, was also there.
Let's bring in our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto. He's here with me watching what's going on.
It's a fast -moving situation and we're getting reaction from the NATO secretary general. He's urging Russia, calm down, don't do anything rash, but world leaders are very, very nervous right now.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question. It's fast moving and you can see how quickly these types of events can spin out of control. And you have a lot of tit-for-tat moves happening right now. For instance, you mentioned the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament, that has called on Russia to withdraw its ambassador from the U.S.
This happens at a time interestingly when our own ambassador, as you know, to Moscow, has just left there three or four days ago, Ambassador McFaul, who you've interviewed a number of times over -- those lines of communication, you know, which are essential in times like this, you have that potential handicap.
You also have our other allies in the region getting very nervous. We're hearing now that Latvia and Lithuania, the Baltic States, which are members of NATO, have asked for what it -- called the Article Four Consultations. It's not Article Five, which calls on NATO partners to defend militarily members. Article Four, though, is a step below that, where they want to have consultations to see what measures would be taken.
And that shows how this thing that is happening right now in Crimea, one small part of the Ukraine, can easily affect other parts. Latvia and Lithuania, Baltic states just to the north of there, again, on Europe's doorstep, inside Europe. It just shows how quickly it can spin out of control, tit-for-tat, in effect many of our very closest allies.
BLITZER: And it's true, in this kind of a situation, for every action, there's an equal and often unequal reaction and the Russians are proud, if they sense they're being warned by the U.S. or NATO or the Europeans, Putin will respond for his own domestic political reasons to show that he's not weak or anything along those lines. So you've got to finesse a diplomatic crisis like this very, very carefully.
I assume the president's National Security advisers were going through those kinds of potential reactions very carefully with them.
SCIUTTO: I'm sure. I'm sure this is a difficult principals meeting in the White House a short time ago. And remember, you talk about the warnings. There have been very public, loud warnings from U.S. officials the last few days. And when you see this move today, first of all, the troops going in yesterday and now the Russian parliament's move, in effect, a public confirmation of Russia's intentions there, which applies, you know, not just to Crimea, but all -- to all of Ukraine.
These things are happening in defiance of severe and stern U.S. warnings. That's an affront, it's an affront to the president of the United States. It's an affront to the U.S. That dynamic is very dangerous. It's very difficult. And I'm sure it's causing some very difficult conversations inside the White House.
BLITZER: And the president says there will be a cost to any kind of military invasion if you will of Ukraine. He's leaving it vague right now. He's not spelling out what that cost would mean.
SCIUTTO: No. I mean he mentioned a couple of things yesterday. The -- White House officials mentioned the possibility of --
BLITZER: He didn't.
SCIUTTO: Well, he didn't say it, of course. He let it to come -- you know, unnamed sources, but, you know, still, this is something being considered clearly, not to attend the G-8 conference in June.
But it's interesting, Nicholas Burns, you know, former senior U.S. diplomat, mentioned the possibility of expelling Russia from the G-8. We haven't heard any of that coming out of the White House, but these are people who advise the White House and have been involved in decisions before.
That shows you the range of options. We're certainly not there yet, and we're not even at the point where they've said that they won't attend the G-8 conference in Sochi. That's just something that's been floated as an idea. So these costs to this point still very much undefined.
BLITZER: Our Jim Sciutto is going to stick around. He's got a lot of work to do. Obviously all of us are watching the situation unfold.
Jim, stand by. We're going to take a quick break. We're going to get more reaction, we're standing by, a statement coming from the United Nations, the Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon expected to release a statement.
We're also waiting to see if President Obama himself or other top U.S. national security officials go out and speak following this emergency principals meeting. President's top national security adviser just wrapped up a meeting in the West Wing of the White House.
Our special breaking news coverage continues right after this.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
BLITZER: Now the breaking news continues to unfold from Ukraine, serious tensions escalating right now specifically between the U.S. and the Europeans on one hand and Russia on the other hand.
We're waiting for a statement from the United Nations secretary general, also we'll see if one of President Obama's top advisors goes before the cameras to make a U.S. statement as well.
In the meantime, let's bring in Sir Tony Brenton, he's the former U.K. ambassador in Russia. He's joining us from London via Skype.
Sir Tony, thanks very much for coming in. So tell us what your analysis is? Are you as concerned as U.S. officials are right now about this escalating crisis involving potential Russian military engagement in Ukraine?
SIR TONY BRENTON, FORMER U.K. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Yes, it looks very bad. It looks as if the Russians are intent on occupation of Crimea. And the big demonstrations in other places in eastern Ukraine in the course of today suggest that it could very rapidly spread to the beginnings of a civil war in Ukraine if we don't act quite swiftly to get things under control.
BLITZER: Well, what does that mean if we don't act quite swiftly? When you say we, what can the rest of the world do? What should the U.S., Britain, the NATO allies, others be doing right now? BRENTON: Well, we need to ask ourselves what the Russians want. The Russian are being what they're doing because they're infuriated at being squeezed out of the future of Ukraine in a way with the overthrowing of Yanukovych, who was in a sense their man, with the very visible movement of Ukraine back towards their planned agreement with the EU.
We need to be getting together with the Russians and setting up political process which gives them a clear role in the future of Ukraine. I hope that the U.S. government and European governments will be calling for a very early conference together with Russia, together with the Ukrainians to chart a way forward, which gives the Russians the assurance that their essential interests will be taken into account.
BLITZER: Our chief national security correspondent, Ambassador, Jim Sciutto is with me. He's got a question for you.
SCIUTTO: Ambassador Brenton, thanks very much. We've been hearing from the White House the last 24 hours that one potential cost on the table is to boycott the June G-8 conference in Sochi. Is it your view that the U.K. would join such a boycott?
And I wonder, moving forward as this situation potentially gets worse, could further steps be on the table, more severe steps including expelling Russia from the G-8?
BRENTON: Yes, I'm sure the U.K. would join such a boycott. I suspect getting Russia expelled from the G-8 could be a little bit more difficult, although if the Russians continue to breach their international commitments to Ukraine, that might be achievable. All of this feels like pin pricks by comparison with Russia's very strong interests in having its concerns taken into account in Ukraine.
Ukraine is the foreign country from a Russian point of view which is closest to. They have real concerns about what's happened there over the last few weeks and real concern which they believe is the result of Western plotting and machinations, and a real determination to make sure that their interests are taken into account in the future.
BLITZER: Do they really believe, Ambassador, that the U.S., the West, the Europeans plotted what's going on in Ukraine right now, the opposition to Russia? Is that really seen as some sort of conspiracy that the U.S. the, U.K. and others may have plotted against Russia?
BRENTON: What we are seeing to some extent is a repeat of the Orange Revolution of 2004. I was in Moscow as British ambassador in 2004 and there was absolutely no doubt that the Russian authorities at the time saw the dark hand --
BLITZER: Ambassador, hold on a second, hold on a second. We're getting a statement from the United Nations spokesman. I want to listen in.
MARTIN NESIRKY, SPOKESMAN FOR U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: -- the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. He calls for an immediate restoration of calm and direct dialogue between all concerned to solve the current crisis.
The Secretary-General will be speaking with President Vladimir Putin of Russia shortly about the situation in Ukraine.
As the Secretary-General is about to fly to Europe, he has asked the Deputy Secretary-General to attend today's Security Council session to brief members of the Council on developments in Ukraine.
And that's what I have for you, I'm happy to take a couple of questions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Martin, is there any feedback from the Secretary-General's Special Envoy, Robert Serry, from Kiev? Has he -- is he in -- will he go to Crimea or will he -- has he met with other leaders?
NESIRKY: Well, Robert Serry intends to go to Geneva tomorrow so that he can brief the Secretary-General directly. He had wanted to visit Crimea but this proved to be logistically difficult and therefore he has opted to go to Geneva as initially planned, and this would be to brief the Secretary-General directly.
Of course, there have been telephone conversations, including this morning, about the rapidly unfolding events in Ukraine and I can tell you that, as I have said, the Secretary-General is gravely concerned and will continue to monitor this very closely. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And just as a quick follow-up, has the Secretary-General made any statement or feel any way about the territorial integrity of Ukraine vis-a-vis any kind of troop movements of Russia?
NESIRKY: Well, the Secretary-General has reiterated here in this statement, he's called for the full respect for and preservation of the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. And in fact, this is something that we have heard from right across the spectrum of views on what is happening in Ukraine. There was a clear view in the Council yesterday, if not on many other matters, certainly there was a clear view about the territorial integrity of Ukraine, as I understand it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
NESIRKY: Yes, Ivan, and then Oleg.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And do you have anything specific to say about the decision of the Russian Parliament on troops in Ukraine?
NESIRKY: Look, we've seen the reports, but we don't have any specific comment at the moment. I mean, at the moment, the key factor here is the restoration of calm and direct dialogue. What we need now is on all sides in this matter cool heads and really a calm approach to this.
Yes? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Martin.