tv Washington Week PBS February 18, 2022 7:30pm-8:00pm PST
yamiche: on the brink of war. president biden: as of this moment i'm convinced he's made the decision. yamiche: president biden warns the president of russia has decided to invade ukraine. >> i am here today not to start a war but to prevent one. yamiche: but diplomats continue to scramble for a peaceful solution. meanwhile -- >> there's much in the president's remarks that i appreciated. yamiche: some republicans support president biden's handling of the crisis. >> this is not our fight. we got other fish in the frying pan so to speak. yamiche: but concerns remain about a military conflict. plus former president trump is ordered to testify under oath about his business practices. as investigations intensify.
next. announcer: this is "washington week." corporate funding is provided b- >> nor 25 years, consumer cellular's goal has been to provide wireless service that helps people communicate and connect. we offer a variety of no contract plans and our u.s.-based customer service team can help find one that fits you. to learn more, visit consumercellular.tv. announcer: additional funding is provided by the estate of arnold adams, koo and patricia yuen through the yuen foundation, committed to bridging ctural differences in our communities, sardinha and carl delay-magnuson. rose herschel and randy shreeves. robert and susan rosenbaum. the corporation for public brought casting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. once again, from washington, moderator yamiche alcindor.
yamiche: good evening and welcome to "washington week." as of tonight, president biden says he is convinced that president putin has decided to invade ukraine. though president biden is continuing to stress that russia can still choose a peaceful diplomatic solution. yet the people of ukraine are bracing for a possible invasion. u.s. officials are saying as many as 190,000 russian troops and separatists are gathered in and around ukraine, a significant increase over the last few days. and this week at nato headquarters in brussels, defense secretary lloyd austin said russia is making wartime preparations. >> we see them fly in more combat and support aircraft. we see them sharpen their readiness in the black sea. we even see the stocking up their blood supplies. i was a soldier myself not that long ago. and i know first hand that you don't do these sort of things
for no reason. yamiche: yet the kremlin continues to insist it is not planning to invade you're crane. in response, republican senator james rosh said this on the "pbs newshour." >> the russians lie. and i don't know how they can look in the camera and tell the world they have no intention of invading and they have amassed the largest invasion force that the world has seen in decades. so look, the world doesn't believe it. yamiche: meanwhile, russia's government expelled a top u.s. embassy official from moscow a. state department official, the state department, rather, called the move a, quote, erving latory step. russia also warned it will take, quote, military technical measures if the u.s. refuses to roll back the nato presence in eastern europe. a lot to talk about tonight. joining me to discuss this and all is dan balz, chief correspondent for "the washington post," francesca chambers, senior white house
correspondent for mcclatchy, david sanger, white house and national security correspondent for "the new york times." he is also joining us from the munich security conference in germany. and barbara starr, pentagon correspondent for cnn. thank you so much all of you for bringing here. david, i want to start with you. you're in germany where there are a lot of key players here and we of course her president biden come out and say that he is convinced that putin has made his decision. talk a bit about sort of what you're hearing on the latest on this situation a also i'm wondering how great is the risk of war now given the path that president putin is on? david: well, yamiche, i think we are seeing as you suggested at the opening one of those rare moments where it looks like we could have a very major land war in europe. just a few months ago, that mere discussion would have seemed extremely strange. the biden administration came to office worried more about china and its ability to be an
ex-tension teat to the united states because of its technological, economic and military prowess, and all of a sudden it's dealing with the great disruptor, vladimir putin. the united states began to see this buildup in october, sent the c.i.a. director, bill burns, to warn president putin who he only spoke to by phone because putin has been so isolated, largely thanks to covid prevention. and ever since that time, they've just been on a steady path upward until we hit the point this week where the number is somewhere between 150,000 to 190,000 troops. that's more than we had in iraq and afghanistan. and very hard to explain as you heard secretary austin say, except if you're planning to invade. now, it's possible despite the president's warning that putin is using this just for
diplomatic leverage, seems increasingly unlikely. it's also possible that he won't do a single massive invasion. and that's been the discussion here today at the opening of the munich security conference which is the largest security conference in europe and an annual event and it happe to be taking place in the middle of the largest security crisis in europe in many decades. yamiche: yeah. and david, you're talking about this sort of steady upward trajectory. with all that going on, the president of ukraine is supposed to be going where you are to the munich conference. but there is some concerns from the white house about whether or not there might be an opening there if the president of ukraine leaves the country for president putin to invade while he's out of the country, what are you hearing about the latest on whether or not the predent of ukraine will be there and whether or not those -- those worries about him being out of the country are sort of grounded in anything? david: well, he's coming here to see vice president harris who's here with secretary of state
tony blinken. and they're supposed to meet around midday. i've run into many members of the u.s. delegation who are here, very large delegation led by speaker pelosi. but many of the armed services and intelligence committee members. and most of them have said to me that they think that it would be a crazy thing for president zelensky to leave the capital now at a time that intelligence reports suggest that the russians are lining up people to go replace him. they don't doubt he could get out of the country. they wonder whether he could get back in. and they fear for his personal safety. we don't know yet whether he's coming. i wouldn't be surprised if at the last minute he decides that isn't a wise course of action. but it tells you just how fragile this situation is. and i thought the most interesting moment of the week was when secretary blinken was at the united nat nations and basically said yes, it sounds to
the whole world like we are saying that the sky is falling in. but we would rather reveal all of this intelligence and offer this warning and be wrong and force putin to back down and take the criticism for that than to stay silent and let putin run right through what is the second largest country by land mass in europe. yamiche: yeah. and francesca, the president's words were really grave today. and almost had to listen to it twice to get the idea that he really is saying he thinks the president of russia has made up his mind. what are you hearing about the white house's latest thinking here and also is there a sense that this -- that putin is on this path and that there is no turning back at this moment? or they still possibly thinking diplomacy could work behind the scenes? francesca: well, president biden said today that he still hoped that diplomacy could work here. but yamiche, as you were just
saying, we've heard an escalating message from president biden this week about what's at stake. just the other day, we heard him put in stark terms to the american people what they could potentially expect in terms of how a conflict could affect gas prices. he told americans in ukraine that they needed to leave the country. then he gave a direct to camera message to the russian people essentially begging them not to go to war with ukraine and saying that he did not think that this is something that the russian people wanted. so trying a number of tactics as the white house sought to get in front of this conflict and for the american people to understand really what is at stake here both from speeches from president biden that he's made but also in remarks that press secretary jen psaki has been making daily from the podium. yamiche: and as francesca was talking about sort of the increasing rhetoric here, barbara, he want to come to you. what's the pentagon view and -- all of this and i also wonder could you talk a little bit about your reporting on how president biden is able to have
this intelligence to make this -- this statement that russia has made up its mind. barbara: well, you know, the u.s. military, the u.s. intelligence community and i think intelligence services across europe have been keepi such a sharp eye on all of this. so what does the u.s. have at hand? look, it starts with satellites overhead. they are able to collect imagery. we've seen a lot of commercial satellite images on social media. they can collect imagery. they can understand what conversations and communications are taking place. you also have manned aircraft that have been flying over ukraine for weeks now. they will have to stop flying if a conflict breaks out. the pentagon is very concerned that u.s. troops have no contact with the russians. you will see drones flying. these are the kinds of things that are able to collect intercepll the way to moscow that are able to see the heat signature of weapons being
turned son and potentially moved around. the pentagon even keeping a sharp eye on weather forecasts in the region to see how long the ground may stay hard. and freeze where it will be soft and muddy where it will be hard for russian troops to maneuver around. they have all of this in hand. and what's so interesting in this case, they're letting the world know it. it's an information war. with the pentagon hoping to do for the last several weeks is make sure the world understands the information at hand. the state department as well. make sure they understand the so-called russian playbook, what the russians could get up to, and hope that that would be enough to persuade putin, it will be too hard to carry something out. but as we sit here tonight, i think everyone agrees there's just simply no indication that putin is about to change his mind and we have this bottom line situation where the world is holding its breath based on
what may be going on in the mind of just one man. yamiche: and dan, certainly as barbara just said, the world is holding its breath. i wonder when you talk about -- when we think about this infoation warfare that's going on between two nuclear powers we have to remind folks that it's information warfare but between two countries that have nuclear capabilities here, talk a bit about how president biden sees this and in particular, why he doesn't see it as in u.s. interests to send in troops to defend the sovereignty of ukraine at this time. dan: well, yamiche, there's no -- there's no appetite in this country for the united states to enter into a new conflict. we saw with the botched withdrawal from afghanistan that while the public judged president biden harshly for what happened, they were supportive of the decision to get out. and the idea that we would now send troops into ukraine in one way or another is something that the biden administration clearly understands is off the table. but i've been struck by the
dupree to which they have -- degree to which they have very successfully used intelligence and information as part of the deterrent. i talked to several people today and the only analogy that people came up with was the cuban missile crisis when adelaide stevenson famously showed at the u.n. the pictures of the russian missiles in cuba or the soviet missiles in cuba then. but for the most part, the u.s. intelligence community does not want public discussion of what they see and what they believe and what their interpretation is. and this has been a case in which as david said, bill burns went to moscow last fall to basically say to putin, we know what's going on. the u.s. -- the administration began sharing this with our allies in europe. in part, i think, to help bolster the alliance and to get people onboard that this was
very serious and it had to be serious and then they have started on an almost daily basis to reveal everything they seem to know or most of what they seem to know again so that there is no surprise if something happens. you know, there was a surprise when the russians went into crimea in 2014. i think one of the efforts is to avoid that kind of problem now. yamiche: yeah. and barbara, russia of course is talking about taking these military technical measures, they also -- the white house also accused russia of carrying out cyberattacks in ukraine. i wonder out if you could talk about what retaliatory -- what retaliatory military technical measures, a mouthful, what does that actually mean barbara, and sort of is the future of war here cyber as well? barbara: well, i think -- i think that is a good deal of what's going on already. the u.s. tagging the russians for cyberattacks in ukraine and actually quite worried that the russians could come to the
united states shores with cyberattacks against u.s. banks, u.s. power -- electric power structures, that sort of thing. huge worry. what we're talking about, i think, in the ukraine, immediate area of ukraine, is a conventional russian attack to some extent. these troops, these hundreds of -- these thousands of troops, the weapons, these are conventional heavy weapons. we're talking tanks, artillery, rockets, mortars, hundreds of ballistic missiles, helicopters, attack aircraft. and what the pentagon has calculated, the human disaster is just -- you can't wrap your head around it. if they go in with a full blown invasion, north from belarus, east and south from russia, from crimea, if they go after population centers, inside ukraine, the calculations is tens of thousands of civilian casualties, wounded. it will just be horrific beyond belief. and there is a good deal of
effort to make that very plain. it will be -- it will be just appalling. now, there are u.s. forces across the border in poland which is a nato member. the u.s. is sending troops for deterrence and reassurance against nato's eastern flank members. but, you know, in the year 2022, we're talking about the possibility of people inclung americans still in ukraine trying to escape across the border into poland with their lives. and it just seems extraordinary that that's where we are. yamiche: yeah. and david, afghanistan is hovering over all of this. the lessons learned there. but also i'm thinking at the same time that president biden has talked so much about china, i wonder if you could bridge those two things for us, the lessons learned but also looking into the future what they're looking on the horizon o when it comes to sort of adversaries that they want to keep an eye on.
david: yes. that's a fascinating question, yamiche. first of all, they learn from afghanistan, that the details matter, even as dan suggested before, i think accurately, the most americans supported leaving afghanistan, they didn't like the way it was coordinated. this has been the opposite. if anything, there's been, you know, an oversharing and overcoordination because they realize that they needed to keep all of the allies together. that said, there are two things that i think really distinguish this conflict from any that we've seen before. the first we've hinted at. and that is that this is the first major potentially major war if the russians go in that is taking place in a world of open source intelligence, where we don't need the government satellites. back in the cuban missile crisis just the right analogy that dan used, the deposit had to decide to declassify the satellite
photographs they were propped up behind president kennedy when he gave his famous speech. in this case, we're all getting satellite photographs every morning from companies like maxar that are as good as what the intelligence agencies had just a few years ago. and so in sop ways, that makes the u.s. information war case a lot easier because every day, there's an unclassified backup to show what's happening. the second thing that distinguishes this is the cybercapability because the russians have a way of -- part from nuclear weapons of reaching to western europe or to the united states if they want to retaliate for the sanctions. that didn't exist in the old cold war. yamiche: yeah. well, thank you, barbara, for joining us and we really appreciate you coming on. and this week, president biden also warned americans could feel the effects of -- in -- on their wallets if russia invades ukraine.
president biden: i will not pretend this will be painless. there could be impact on our energy prices:so we're taking active steps to alleviate the pressure on our own energy markets and offset raising prices. yamiche: now, across the u.s., gas prices have been surging and this week, according to the energy department, those costs hit an eight-year high. dan, i wanto come to you. talk a bit about sort of -- you wrote this week about sort of all of the different challenges the democrats face. i wonder if -- talk to us a little bit about what the cost to americans could look like here and how that might impact the midterms. dan: well, let me answer the second part first which is it's very difficult to predict what this might mean for the midterms. because we ultimately don't know what putin is going to do if there is an invasion, exactly what that invasion would look like. but let's say there is one as the president said he believes there will be one. in that case, we know that oil markets will be -- you know, in turbulence. and that there could be a
substantial spike in the oil markets which would subst substantially increase gasoline prices here at home and elsewhere around the world. that is a big prosch for the president and for the democrats heading into the fall campaign. we know at this point despite many of the successes that the administration has chalked up on the economy, a significant lowering of the unemployment rate, a substantial increase in the number of jobs, that it is the rise in prices that is the most sensitive issue to voters at this point. and if knows gasoline prices go higher, that will have a negative impact on the president and on democrats running. which is why there is talk about trying to do something about it. try to mitigate in some way. but it's not clear that the -- this administration or any administration frankly has major tools that can substantially change what the markets are doing. and so i think that their hands are a little bit tied. they have to look like they are doing something. but the question is how
effective might that be. yamiche: yeah. and how fetch it might be is the critical question. francesca, americans often aren't focused on foreign policy when they think of sort of domestic politics. but look to afghanistan and the fact that president biden's poll numbers never really recovered after that withdrawal that he defended and continues to defend. i wonder what you're hearing from the white house about how this in terms of inflation and all of these things could be handled by the white house but also how that sort of ghost of the afghanistan withdrawal is continuing to impact their thinking about this. francesca: well, actually, the energy secretary, jennifer granholm, about that this morning, yamiche. and she said a couple of things here. that in the longer term, this is part of the reason why the biden administration is focused on trying to develop clean energy initiatives to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels. but in the short term, she did mention how they have tapped into the strategic petroleum reserve in the past and she also mentioned in the context of the potential conflict between ukraine and russia that the
united states is working with its allies globally to try and increase the oil supply so that supply would meet demand. because that is one of the big questions here in terms of the crippling sanctions that the united states says that it would put on russia in case of a conflict. even if the u.s. does not directly sanction the oil and gas industry, there is still plenty of sanctions my sources are telling me that are indirect that could have an effect on costs in the united states. yamiche: yeah. and dan a. quick question to you and we have about 45 seconds left but we have to talk about the fact that the former president, president trump, that he was ordered which a -- by a new york judge to teich along with two of his children. what's the significance of th as we see all these other investigations intensifying? dan: well, it's a very significant moment for the former president and his family that they're going to be forced to testify in the legal undertaking that's going on in new york state. he's had a number of legal
setbacks since he left office and this is just the latest. now, whether the prosecutors will be able to get anything out of him and his family is another question. they obviously can take the fifth amendment and say nothing. but given -- given that he had been trying very, very hard to avoid this moment, this has to be considered a major setback for him. yamiche: and david, with the 30 seconds that i have left here and you're focused on national security issues, but you coved president trump just like me, talk a little bit about sort of the other thing that happened this week which is that judge ruled that president -- former president trump can be sued because of the january 6 attack. what does that mean and what does it mean for this white house that this will continue to be something that they'll deal with? and we have about 30 seconds left but i want to give it to you. david: sure. so i think a remarkable thing about this, yamiche, is that president trump has believed that he was basically immune from court review of anything he
did in -- during his presidency. and that ranged from his personal business work to of course his -- his role in speaki to the protesters just before they went up and launched the riot and he's just discovered not protected. yamiche: yeah. well, a lot to talk about. we'll definitely be talking more about the former president and of course this tension going on in russia and ukraine. thankou so much to dan, francesca, and david for joining us and sharing your reporting. we will continue our conversation on the "washington week" extra. this week's topic, domestic challenges. find it on our website, facebook and youtube and for the latest on the tensions between russia and ukraine, tune in to "the pbs newshour" on monday. and finally, as part of this black history month, i want to honor former "washington week" moderator and trail blazer blazing journalist gwen ifill. in 19999 she made history on this show when she became the first african-american woman to host a nationally televised public affairs program. gwen was of course deeply loved
by her family and friends and by people she made time to mentor. gwen: i very much embrace the idea of being a role model. i set out to be and to let you see from what i am that you can be that, too. that to me is role model. and i -- and i will listen and advise and encourage every opportunity i get, young people who are trying to figure it out for themselves. but there's nothing more powerful than my just doing it and doing it well. yamiche: and she did of course do it very well. i met gwen through a mutual friend at a long-time "washington post" reporter. gwen and nafalia two exceptional black women and inspired me to pursue a career in journalism and they helped me navigate the path that ultimately led to my becoming the moderator of "washington week." it is a deep honor to follow in the footsteps of gwen. thank you so much again for joining us. good night from washington. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy.
visit ncicap.org] announcer: corporate funding for "washington week" is provided b. additional funding is provided by the estate of arnold adams, koo and patricia yuenhrough the yuen foundation, committed to bridging cultural differences in our communities, sardinha and carl delay-magnuson, rose hirschel and andy shreeves. robert and susan rosenbaum. the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.