tv Washington Journal Michael O Hanlon CSPAN February 7, 2022 2:47pm-3:35pm EST
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in the age of peace." welcome back to washington journal. guest: thank you. let me quickly clarify. i'm not the director of the program but only research within. thank you for having me. host: on this morning to talk about the developing conflict between russia and ukraine and the growing partnership between china and russia. let's start there. with the olympics getting underway with the two most prominent leaders meeting both on the sidelines of those olympics. the wall street journal framing that meeting as them uniting in a challenge to the u.s.. what you think of -- that the challenge meeting -- means for the u.s.? >> i think it's a long-term threat that will continue. i don't think there's a particular decision that is
somehow noteworthy in and of itself except the olympics, outgoing russia situation ukraine. out of the brush will help type -- china try to seize taiwan. i think it will collaborate again. they've been doing that at the u.n. security council. certainly their economic relationship can develop more. as the u.s. buys less russian oil and gas, china can buy more. they can never completely compensate for each other for the loss of western markets for example but they can do a fair amount to cushion the blow of future sanctions or other pressure we might apply. we think they sense the united states and its allies are trying to put pressure on both of them that's naturally going to push them together. host: this is been a developing relationship over the years. what do you think both want out of this for their countries?
guest: i think they both want to limit american power and the ability of the united states and its allies dominate the terms of international issues. the way we see it is all we are trying to do is keep world trade going and keep international borders secure and prevent conflict. the way they see it is the united states continues to expand its alliances. sometimes without formal international blessing. but where more of a traditional great power than we admit and were not just defending human rights, but her own interests. obviously the specifics of the taiwan issue and also the nato expansion issue become perhaps the most geographically specific but it's broader than that. host: was this the first time we heard china way in on the expansion of nato like that? guest: yes my senses china has
largely stayed out of this one. they were willing to tolerate our alliances in the western pacific region because they thought it might constrain japan to have a u.s. japan alliance. i think you are right to say in recent times china has become a little bit more wary and downright opposed to american alliances in general and that's made it easier for them to then support putin because he complains about nato expansion. for china and russia it's part and parcel, the united states preaches universal values and democracy but we are expanding our own power. host: we mentioned at the top your most recent book the art of war in the age of peace, u.s. grand strategy and resolute strength. how does this evolving relationship between china and russia change u.s. strategy? host: -- guest: first i still think by historical standards
this is an age of peace. i do not expect war. i think putin is playing an exit can -- and blame -- an excellent mind game. but by the standards of history we don't see great powers doing major overland conflicts in the modern era. i don't think that will happen, largely because russian is the consequences. it would be difficult in ukraine itself but face long-term economic punishment from the west in markets they can't really afford to lose but that's sort of the age of peace part, the restraint part is even though i don't like having to make this kind of decision at the point of a gun i do think nato has expanded far enough in the idea of bringing ukraine and georgia and any other former soviet republics they want to consider membership in the future into an alliance that was set up 70 years ago to deal with the soviet threat that no longer exists, this is bound to create
negative reaction from russia. i think we have defined different ways without conceding to russia should be willing to negotiate about an alternative arrangement for us to mutually secure ukraine. i think it will take work and we shouldn't concede the issue up front. i think we need a little bit more restraint. >> absent an invasion of ukraine do you think the russians could be successful in getting the west to some sort of agreement or changes to the terms of their views on the expansion based on nato particularly regarding ukraine? guest: we are not in a kick current members out even if the russians think the baltic states or poland or romania shouldn't be in their paired what's done is done. russia has no inherent right to those countries. during and after world war ii often a great deal of violence
with no legitimacy. i'm not suggesting we adopt his view of the world but i do think there's a high chance that we will think differently about ukraine and georgia. we don't even have a definite plan for them to come into nato. we made the promise in the bush administration in 2008 along with the rest of nato but there was no timetable or security guarantees. we painted a bull's-eye on their back. the president of ukraine started requesting expedited nato membership which i think is what partially brought this issue back. i think out of nato's current efforts, all of which would have to agree people remember this crisis and some countries won't want to run the risk of conflict with russia and won't want to bring ukraine in. the question becomes how do we promote ukraine's interest without nato membership. host: what do you think the ukrainian president and
ukrainian people want coming out of this conflict? guest: i think he would like made a membership. a number of ukrainians in the east of the country would perhaps still be wary. the ones in the west probably want nato membership because there is the sort of regional division in some parts of ukraine. i think ukrainians in general onto stronger country. my good friend who disagrees with me on this issue of nato expansion, he underscores just how much vladimir putin has managed to unify ukrainians as a people and a country. they don't appreciate being bullied by their big brother to the north and east and they have a stronger sense of national identity and sovereignty. so i think we have to get -- help them strengthen their own nation. it certainly means getting their economy going, reducing corruption in their own
nationstate. was the types of things i think ukraine needs to think the key to moving its military which is a lot better than it was 10 years ago. we will see if i'm right in the weeks and months to come. host: we are talking about the conflict between russia and ukraine and the growing alliance between russia and china particular after the meeting this week between president putin and xi jinping. we welcome your comments. lines for those, republicans, 202-748-8001. democrats, 202-748-8000. for independents and others, 202-748-8002. viewers and listeners to a piece you had recently in the hill. why we think we can read putin's mind and ukraine. just a bit from that. you write the former cia director was fond of saying we have a perfect record and for
the next war we much -- we always get it wrong. we didn't it is paid pearl harbor or the korean invasion of south korea, of afghanistan. saddam hussein's invasion of kuwait in 1990, nor did we for see putin's attack on ukraine in 2014 or the move into syria in 2015. tell us more broadly what concerns you about this track record you write about. >> part of it is human beings are unpredictable. there are some of those conflicts we probably should've seen coming better than we did. we can talk history if you want. pearl harbor, at least we didn't have the aircraft carrier support. having said all of that, my main point was if putin was going to invade ukraine i'm not sure he would've given us too much
warning. he would've needed time to prepare and there still more russian forces in ukraine and belarus all the time. so perhaps he's just preparing this in a very patient way. but it's really hard to operate tanks and road vehicles in the cold and winter of ukraine and russia. it's also hard to operate them in the spring. so i don't really see when a good time is. i have a very good colleague at brookings who says usually one -- when russia invades others it tends to happen around june. there aren't too many good months for fighting in that part of the world. and frankly russia still depends on big tanks, vehicles that support those tanks, just not a great time to attack. i don't really think that's what
the game is. i think putin wants to remind us he could attack and that that will change the conversation about ukraine's future. guest: let -- host: back to the meeting between president xi jinping and president putin, the statement that came out of that meeting for the washington post this morning. they write about this in a part of that statement they write the two leaders sketched out a shared vision of universal values that diverted from the western worldview. it's only up to the people of their country to decide whether their state is a democratic one. a reference to repeated western criticism of a lack of political freedom in russia and china. the u.s. and other nations are staging a diplomatic boycott of the beijing winter olympics to protest china's human rights abuses. they write while the criticism of western democracy isn't new, it's included in a joint statement at the beginning of a high-profile event such as the olympics requests there does
resolve to build a growing collagen -- coalition of like-minded nations. guest: i agree with a good deal of that. president putin wants to go to the olympics and president xi jinping wants to host them. they visited each other dozens of times in their were specked in areas of leadership. this is not a surprise. most of the conversations they are having are ongoing. but i generally agree that they have different priorities for politics to put it mildly and putin in particular has an ax to grind with us. i think president xi jinping sees the commonest parties rule in china as very beneficial to the economic growth and beneficial for holding together the country of 1.4 billion and generally successful. even though we disagree with him, i don't think he is quite a cynical as vladimir putin. for him, this rhetoric is used to justify his own suppression
of his own fellow russians including the killings of dissidents and politicians. and he's really turned back the clock on democracy in russia. some people would say that about xi jinping but he's essentially the strong-armed leader of an ongoing communist regime in china where his putin took what was a promising democracy and took it backwards. i was still largely agree with the washington post. host: part of the efforts of the chinese under president she has been economic expansion, investment worldwide. that's not necessarily the case with russia. they don't share necessarily the same worldwide expansion or development goals. i'm thinking of the belt road project that the chinese have been spreading out early. >> no doubt. russia doesn't have that capacity. it is 1/10 the population of china, 1/10 the economic growth rate.
putin became popular because the economy stabilized and improved. in the last decade due to sanctions and upside down from the oil markets and covid, the russian economic growth has been very mediocre. china has all this investment in high tech sectors that the russians are losing ground on partially because of the sanctions and the inability to collaborate with the western world for a lot of the high-tech -- where a lot of the high-tech exists. these countries on partially different trajectories. i would say russia has ambition that they are more specific and limited and they are more old school in the sense russia likes to dominate the politics and security of eastern europe down through as much of the middle east as it can and then into parts of north africa. it does have a substantial presence in a number of those regions.
like you say, china's position for the globe is largely to be the dominant economic power. i think the military is more in support of that vision and it's willing to use it state power and even coercion, mercantilism isn't always a fair player, to expand its economic power. >> let's hear from our viewers. let's go to alan in brooklyn. you are on the air, go ahead. caller: good morning, thank you very much. i'm a little concerned not with this particular discussion but in general that they're so little mention of the recent history of trumps attempt to involve ukraine in swaying the 2020 election led to his first impeachment. and how that relates to our place in the world vis-a-vis russia and china. for most of the cold war it was considered -- of america that
our support for free enterprise economically was also tied to our general support for democracy. now that the communists control of the economies of china and russia have seated ground to capitalistic economic processes, america seems to be showing a lack of commitment to the democratic side of the coin. especially trump, he seemed to be announcing to the world democracy didn't matter to us but anybody who gave it to the -- gave it to us was favoring our interest as a country. the same thing with louis the 14th. shifting the definition of our national interest.
i'm just wondering at the time trump was in office all his behavior including the favoring of putin's security analysis over that of our own intelligence agencies at helsinki. host: thanks for the call. guest: let me mostly agree but at a point or two as well. i think president trump's stance on democracy as a threat to our country and certainly standing in the world and i worry about 2024. however i would also note the problem we had with russia is deep and very pie partisan. you have a democratic and republican call in line. on this issue of not sure the things break that way but go back to the bush administration when ukraine and georgia were first promised membership. most, credit foreign policy
experts are in that same camp, the biden administration has refused russia's demand that we exclude the possibility of ukrainian membership tomato. it's fully in line with george w. bush on that point. i think president obama was little different. is he blessed enthusiastic about nato membership in general but he did try to create an alternative path structure for ukraine and he did not detract the promise. on this issue i think we have to think more fundamentally. with donald trump still hanging over our heads and the possibility of running again in two years time is -- you do have to ask how that's going to change the dynamic because certainly prudent and trump seem to have a certain rapport and part of me was glad president trump would tried to wind down the temperature of the u.s. russia relationship, the way he did it and the lack of any kind
of durable bipartisan support for that policy and also the lack of any real idea behind president trump on how to improve the relation was a pretty thin read. still managing to talk with putin. i think president biden has done a pretty good job with that so far. they didn't want to escalate the personal animosity but he otherwise didn't have a serious plan for how to improve our relationship with russia and we need one. host: let's go to jim in georgia. caller: after the last caller and the gentleman on there now speaking to i can tell the bias on this channel. socialists and the democrat party. but anyway, where's the u.n. that was set up for prude we go rushing into these things. the u.s. -- of the western
hemisphere in the eastern hemisphere and we should focus on canada, central and south america and try to get things straight over here. let the u.n. the u.k. and all of them try to work it out. russia is a second world nation trying to play first world game and we are allowing them to do it. china is a whole new ballgame. their technology and, the stranglehold they have on their people is what they are looking to do here. guest: first let me say i don't think sees managers possible for my comments and i do think president trump is a threat to our democracy and i'm not going to avoid saying so just because of offending trump supporters. the way he behaved on january 6 was not the way -- was not in
favor of the constitution. the western hemisphere is one billion people in the way you define the eastern hemisphere apparently is most of the rest, almost 7 billion. the eastern hemisphere is where we see world wars developed previously. so the notion we can disengage with what goes on there and just hope it's not going to affect us is something that historically doesn't seem to hold up. if you don't mind going to come back i still like part of your thinking. we don't need to have a showdown with russia and china over each and every issue. the u.n. can solve the problem because russia and china each have a veto on the security council so anything that would require putting pressure on them in response to their actions can really happen. the european union has done a pretty good job sanctioning russia over what it did in 2014. that's been a big part i think of what's in vladimir putin's mind.
even if the eu could make sanctions worse and someday perhaps even cut off imports of russian oil and gas. that would take a considerable amount of effort. but as david victor from university of california san diego and i have argued their path you could adopt to reduce that dependency over time and i think putin knows the west might do that including the european union. i'm proud of our european allies. i think they have been at the center of a lot of how we handled russia since 2014 and ending that weighs on putin's mind. host: the exchange among several of the united nations and the security council. the russian u.s. exchange -- a change accusations. a picture of our ambassador in that article. when you think of that -- what do you think of that and was that further solidification of the alignment between russia and china? >> i had no particular problem
with the conversation but i knew it wouldn't go anywhere and i'm more in favor of being tough with our sanctions and at the same time driving a more creative diplomacy with russia i think we need to save you don't want ukraine and nato what are your ideas for how to protect that country, that sovereign nation. just because it has extract -- historical association with you doesn't mean you get to make the terms for it but let's hear the ideas. i've been calling for this for a long time. we should have various lines of dialogue including u.s. -- former u.s. officials who understand the russians and american security interests. let's see if we can create new ideas. that would be my suggestion in terms of how to change the dynamic and change the conversation. host: jimmy in brooklyn. caller: i love the debate about
your hatred of trump, i know that's not the topic now. this russia china thing, they've been together america, russia and china had contact for 100 years print the commonest party in each of these countries has been in contact and working together for 100 years. russia and china are allies because they're both communist. putin is a communist, china is commonest. certainly they have capitalism now but
host: i agree that russia and china have been collaborating for a long time. and as my good friend recently wrote, they have common interest with iran in certain ways. so i accept some of what you said for sure. there's a good deal of background and information that would support that. on the other hand, i don't see this as turning into a partnership that rivals the west in overall power. we have to bear in mind our own strengths here. the nato alliance plus japan, korea, australia, other countries that are close to the united states and our own power, we account for 2/3 of world economic power, 2/3 of world
military spending and the world's democracies are generally united in dealing with this kind of a threat. i want to maintain our confidence even as we address the threats you mentioned. the last thing i'd say on your point, though, i don't think russia is a communist nation but i don't think it's good news. the kind of clep to be rasi-i that putin has created in russia is in some ways just as dangerous because it legitimates and is a playbook for authoritarians. they can use a anger at the outside world, a pair noah, a -- paranoia, and they can use that to try to justify their own hold on power and denying their own people democratic rights. so i think we share an assessment that politics of russia and china are dangerous. i would put it in different terms. guest: how hard hitting, how effective could sanctions be against russia if the u.s. goes that route?
is host: very hard hitting but -- guest: we hard hitting but we have to be cautious. foreign revenue is of exports of oil and gas. even though putin just promised xi a new contract for natural gas, that was about less than 2% of russia's annual production. it's not a huge market, at least not yet. they don't have enough capacity whether it's with pipelines or other needs to immediately turn from the west to the east. yes, they can to some extent develop that over time. if they're willing to pay more nor energy and -- for energy, buy it more from us, canada, qatar, those around the world, pay subsidies -- pay a little higher price for their energy, we could definitely take away much of russia's foreign export earnings over the next half
decade. i think we should be saying that to putin now. we can do this. we are not necessarily going to do this if this crisis can be resolved. if you invade ukraine you bet we will, because we can't do business as usual with someone that's slicing up europe. host: richard, north carolina, republican line. caller: i have an opinion. i don't see why everybody is calling biden weak. he's not weak. he's doing exactly what he's supposed to be doing. russia and china are now showing that they're coming together. biden is killing our military. bringing in people that will go against the american people. they're going to try your gun. they're doing exactly what they're supposed to be doing. they want a one-world government. thank you. bye. host: all right. any reaction, michael? guest: i would say the military is still in very good shape. i'll give bipartisan credit here. president trump, even though i am critical of his approach to
his own country and our democracy, he did increase military spending. he chose two excellent secretaries of defense, jim mattis and mark. and a lot of the problems that developed in the previous wars in the middle east and revenue crises and budget problems in washington that deprive the military of timely resources, a lot of those got better in the trump years and they continue to get better now. congress is going to have to pass a budget to get the pentagon and other parts of the government its money because we're about to run out of funds in two weeks. but generally speaking, we have a high level of military spending. i spent a lot of time with the u.s. military. i consider its readiness now to be quite good. it has a ways to go. and restoring all the strains of the past two decades. but that's in some ways par for the course. we're never perfect in our military readiness. and i'm a big fan of the men and women of our armed forces even as the politics of this country at the white house level change.
i see a steadiness in their commitment to the nation. so i do not share the caller's view about the state of the military. i think it is actually quite good. host: can you help us understand of a story being reported in "the new york times," "the washington post," here in "politico." politico, 70% of russia's buildup, they have assembled 70% of the firepower it likely tends to have in place by mid-month to give president vladimir putin to launch a full-scale invasion of ukraine. u.s. officials say these stories are based on background conversations with u.s. officials. why is a story like that out of the time like this? guest: well, i think russian buildup does continue. and we've seen, for example, today's wall street journal reports russia has as many as 80 or 83 of the so-called battalion strike groups that are now around the general borders of ukraine. and that's up from 53 a few
weeks ago. and so they are expanding their buildup. they say it's for an exercise. i think it's for coercion. some people think it's for an invasion. i agree we have to worry about that possibility. this is a real-time information that's being observed as dynamics change over there. i think that's a big part of the conversation. but i don't think that anybody can calculate with that kind of exact precision, whether they're in the military, in the intelligence world, "politico" or wall street journal what it will take russia to dominate ukraine. we thought we could do those calculations before iraq and afghanistan. the russians are the soviets they could do that in afghanistan themselves. they were wrong. these kinds of wars have a way of thinking on a life of their own and i hope putin realize any precision in his thinking or our estimates how long they would last, how many casualties they would cause, those are just rough, rough guesses. war has a way of, again, going in paths and directions you don't expect.
host: let's hear from tom, erie, pennsylvania, on the independent line caller: yes. i think you guys are avoiding the reality of what created the mess that we're in right now with china. american financial and business interests ran over there, chasing cheap labor, gave away their technology and now we're in a -- in a crisis because of it. i think any discussion like that excludes that subject is ridiculous. it's not going to change until -- until we see some patriotism from america's financial and business interests. guest: well, you put it well.
probably more colorfully or bluntly than i could have. i have a hard time disagreeing. let me put it in brookings speak or academic language. ever since henry kissinger and richard nixon went to china in the early 1970's we were trying to engage with them and we hoped it would work. we help that would make them wealthier. that part worked. or bring them in the international order we support, free and open investment, playing by certain rules, not trying to use force to resolve international disputes. and that part hasn't worked so well and i think you're correct we've seen evidence of that increasingly in the last one to two decades. the consensus now in favor of just helping china get wealthier, that consensus is gone in the world i spend most of my time, in the security world, the national security world, the grand strategy world. i agree to your point, there are many in business who hope they can make a lot of money in china. unfortunately, china has not played by an open or even playing field and they have
taken a lot of our technology and they have set up unfair trade practices. and i do think we need to push back harder. if you're concerned about that, the good news is that i think washington gets that. the bad news is as you say, a lot of business and financial world are still making their way down that path of figuring that out. and we're going to have to create some new understandings. i don't think they're an enemy but not a complete friend and certainly not a fair player on this stuff. i do agree with a lot of what you said. host: latest book is the art of war in an age of peace: u.s. grand strategy and resolute restraint. back to your calls. and troy is in pittsburgh on the republican line. troy, go ahead. caller: yes. i was going to ask you about -- you were talking about june would be perfect to go in to fight and that's when it would be perfect, the president to go
in and then just because of the climate. they got track vehicles. track vehicles, the weather means nothing. it's the way it is now. and they also have satellites over top of ukraine. everything we're dropping off right now they know exactly where it's going so they'll go after the supply dumps and hit all their military targets before they go in. by the time the soldiers go in, tanks go in, everything will be blown up. and we saw from the last time that they went in, the ukrainians threw down their weapons. i think it would be the same. that's all. host: ok. guest: let me use a visual guide here. one of the books i've been reading lately, tank warfare on the eastern front, 1941-1942. when the snow and cold were similar in russia but the tanks were actually smaller and they did not have such an easy time in the snow. even in theory tanks themselves can sometimes roll over a
lightly snowed field pretty well with their tracks. the fluid in their batteries freezes. their hydraulic fluid freezes. it's hard to put the tracks back on when you're trying to operate it at minus 30 degrees fahrenheit. this is not an easy place to wage warfare in the winter. moreover, even if the tanks could get across the snowy field, the support they need for maintenance parts, for fuel, food for their soldiers, for ammunition, those are generally wheeled vehicles. i'm not -- you're right to point out the possibility that the russians could figure this out. they seize the right roads. they choose the right moment when there's no recent snow. yes, if everything lines up beautifully you're right. it's hard to fight in the winter. anybody who studied history, certainly, anybody who's done that understands the dilemma. so i appreciate your caution.
we should never let down our guard. but i don't think it's going to happen at this time of the year. it would be extremely hard for the russians to pull it off. host: next up is ron in michigan. caller: good morning, gentlemen. have you seen the movie "t-34", you've tanked a lot about tanks? guest: i've spent a lot of time on it. caller: i am a vietnam veteran against war. i remember johnson -- giving a speech, i will not send american boys to vietnam. i went to breakfast and told my brother, jim, you're going to vietnam, jim. a year later he went to vietnam and two years later i went. i know the russians, they will provoke incidents like the apartment bombings. just like we provoked the gulf of tonken, the weapons of mass deception. i see us somehow bungling us into this war with russia-ukraine. we are not going against men
with hoe che minute sandles. they have atomic bombs that will blow up your chimney in an hour. let's negotiate, negotiate, negotiate peace and continue to negotiate. bring down the tensions. host: all right, ron, thanks for the call. guest: thank you. thank you to the vietnam generation. that did so much and doesn't get the credit. and fought a war that the country wasn't behind. you folks did a lot and went through a lot. it's a good warning anytime we hear from your generation about how we have to think about international politics. by the way, i think -- even if i think the united states is a much more moral force in international politics than russia or even china, i do not think we should take for granted everybody else sees our designs that same way and i think we made a ton of mistakes in our foreign policy we need to bear in mind. yes, a little perspective from the other side while still standing firm with our
principles and resolute in defense of our allies. i think that's the right attitude. host: debbie, naples, florida, republican line. caller: yes, michael. i'd like to know why i should listen to you? wasn't the brookings institute the one that perpetuated the russian hoax and was part of the dossier for hillary clinton? i mean, the bias is unbelievable. i could be wrong but i'm pretty sure that's true. guest: it's not true. it's been -- there is a former research assistant at brookings who wound up being implicated in this after he left brookings. i'm very proud of my brookings colleagues who worked with both administrations, both parties in the defense of this country and my good colleague and friend, fee owena hill -- fiona hill, who went to work for trump, not necessarily him but mcmasters and john bolton. just did great things for the country and tried to make the
u.s.-russia relationship work but standing firm in defense of our allies. i think brookings has a strong frack record of working with both parties. i spent a lot of time talking with people in the trump administration. not the president himself. but people at the pentagon. thinking about this question. no. in fact, i'm upset of both the number of journalists who perpetuated this wrong-headed analysis. if we're biased in favor of russia or democrats. host: a text from russ in texas who asks -- michael, would you agree that putin sees any democracy like ukraine with many ethnic russians, internal threat to his rule, a prosperous, progressive ukraine is a big negative for him? guest: i think that is right. there is a part of russia in the putin mind that wants to dominate ukraine, not just in terms of keeping them out of nato where i could understand putin's world rule. but keeping them weak,
subservient, not having them become pro-market, pro-western. therefore, inferior to russia in every way. just to remind them who is the big brother in this relationship. i do fear that is part of putin's world view. that part i want to push back all the time. i'm willing to have a conversation about alternative security structures rather than nato for the ukrainians in the future. but on the issue of ukraine's own internal economic growth, the internal stability and viability, i think we need to be strongly in support of a stronger and more prosperous, more stable, democratic ukraine and that will lead us to a competition with putin. i think we have to continue to wage. host: hit latest book, michael hanlin of the brookings institution. thanks for being with us here on "washington journal." guest: thank you all, kindly.
shoelz. the two have been meeting today discussing germany's assistance to help quell tensions between russia and ukraine. cnn's d.j. judd told reporters that both countries are working in lockstep to further deter russian aggression in europe. also earlier today, the german foreign minister said the german government is prepared to enforce unprecedented sanctions on russia if the kremlin fails to de-escalate tensions with ukraine. this briefing expected to get under way at any moment. live coverage here on c-span.