tv Washington Week PBS March 18, 2022 7:30pm-8:00pm PDT
♪ >> the war in europe with no end in sight. >> the leader of the world needs to be the leader of peace. >> the president of ukraine pleads with the u.s. for more help as his country faces russia 's brutal attacks targeting the most vulnerable, including children. >> he is a war criminal. >> the president delivers his strongest rebuke yet to president putin. >> the russian people especially are able to distinguish true patriots from traitors. i'm certain this necessary and natural self-cleaning of our society will only strengthen our country. >> president putin issues a chilling threat to pro-western russians next. >> this is "washington week."
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"washington week." we are now entering the four week of war in ukraine and russia continues to brutally target civilns. the images are heartbreaking. in kyiv, after their apartment building west shelled, residents evacuated in tears. others had to be carried out on stretches. in mariupol, a theater was bombed. in the days leading up to the attack, that building had clear signs saying it was sheltering children. on wednesday, and an aress to congress, ukraine's president zielinski made an emotional appeal pleading with lawmakers for more military support and to impose a no-fly zone. >> today, the ukrainian people are defending not only ukraine. we are fighting for the europe and the world. in the name of the future. >> despite that appeal, president biden and most members
of congress remain opposed to the no-fly zone. they are concerned it could lead to a direct military conflict between the u.s. and russia. still, after zielinski's address, president biden committed more aid to ukraine. >> the american people are answering president zaleski's call from all help -- for more h elp. america stands with the forces of freedom. we always have and we always will. >> the u.s. has committed an additional $1 billion to ukraine. meanwhile, despite bipartisan support for helping ukraine, some law makers continue to criticize the president's actions. >> the president really needs to step up his game. he has frequently done the right thing but never said enough. >> joining me tonight to discuss this and more, jane ferguson, the special correspondent for pbs news hour. and she is in kyiv, the capital city.
rachel scott, correspondent for abc news. and joining me in the studio keeping me close and warm -- is the white house and national security correspondent for "the new york times." thank you for joining us and our private studio. jane, i have to start with you. this was a heavy week. we saw so many images of civilians being targeted. you've been on the ground talking to soldiers. talk to me a bit about where things stand now. you talked about the unity. talk bit about what we are hearing from soldiers. jane: we've been in the front outside of kyiv, to the northeast of here, and of course, the ukrainian forces have famously fought the russians to a standstill against the odds and certainly against many predictions around the world. talking to soldiers out there at the front, the more professional soldiers, they are very much so
of the opinion that effectively a lot of the military aid that's coming in is working. things like the antitank missiles, the handheld rockets, like the javelins, those are helping to take out tanks and take out helicopters. we've also seen a huge amount of recruitment here into the volunteer forces. there is a huge sense of the moral high ground, of unity and just of an incredible -- amount of solidarity. they certainly have good morale on their site. >> you talk about an incredible amount of solidarity. that comes in the face of russia targeting so many vulnerable places, including at one point a school for visually impaired children. what's the impact of so many civilians and children being targeted and killed in these attacks? jane: people here are absolutely
horrified. they watch the tv news themselves, they are online, watching what is happening in cities like mariupol, in the south in kharkiv, in the east where you are having these cities hammers. civilian -- areas from airstrikes from the russians. and people are very very aware that that is a war crime, it is illegal to specifically target civilians and civilian areas. there was a real sense here of this nation of people, certainly these cities that are holding out, are being punished collectively for that action. but we are also seeing people coming together. i have never in all my years of war reporting i've never seen people showing up like this in very individual ts of kindness. it is not just famously the organization of the volunteers, those who are going to the front and joining the armed forces, but also, you will get to areas
where there is a humanitarian corridor where some of the civilians are able to escape the fighting and you might just find locals from the local apartment buildings to bring sandwiches or hot soup. outside lviv train station where people are coming from kyiv. you see these spontaneous acts of solidarity and kindness. they seem incredibly united in the face of all this. >> david, jane is talking about the ukrainians being incredibly united here. what's your sense of why russia is choosing to target vulnerable populations, civilians, children, what is the goal there? david: i don't think it was their first choice. they had a plan and their plan basically call for sweeping across the country in a few days. we're, as you pointed out, at week three. they thought by this point they
would be sweeping into the west having already taken kyiv and the south. for all the reasons you have heard, that has not happened yet. partly it has been that they cannot seem to keep their air support in coordination with their ground operations. partly is ukrainians have cut off their supply lines. there is some evidence the united states and other western allies have been messing to some degree with their communication systems. they have had their own problems with that that maybe completely unrelated to anything the u.s. did. when they are that far behind they are going back to a strategy that they used in chechnya back in the 1990's and in other cases where, under t hese circumstances, they have done a rain of terror, -- reign of terror and that's what led to president biden saying today
what seems obvious to all of us which is there are war crimes being committed and being committed inflatable prudence name. -- committed in vladimir putin's name. >> president zaleski brought a video and his address to congress. there are some lawmakers saying it was the most important speech delivered since winston churchill delivered his address to joint congress during world war ii. i wonder, though, lawmakers were crying afterwards, some, after that address. what was the impact? what are the changes, if at all, to the actual policy given what the president was asking for? >> i think there is one thing that both democrats and republicans, there is a line they are not willing to cross and that is the no-fly zone. you heard president zaleski call for closing this guys and there is just bipartisan agreement on that fact in lockstep with the
president where they are willing -- not willing to go that far. they want to keep the national security interests paramount in first. that is off the table. the mority of lawmakers on capitol hill. i think president zelinski has been pretty effective in urging lawmakers to ask. -- to ask. you saw the pressure that congress including nancy pelosi put on president biden to ban russian oil and energy. then you saw the white house follow up with action. at this point so many lawmakers are directing it back to the president. they have approved $14 billion in humanitarian and military assistance. at this point, while there are some talks and some ideas of legislations that could possibly pass, i am not sure whether we will see as much of an effort to get that much legislation or that much more humanitarian and military aid through both chambers. >> i was going to ask you is a
follow-up, how is, there still some things in the works happening in congress. what other consequences are lawmakers talking about making russia pay from congress? what actions are they talking about taking? >> right. so, today we saw the house pass legislation looking at trade sanctions. it really just kinda parallels the actions of the white house the president has already taken when it comes to trade sanctions on russia. there is so much talk from republicans, who are very much outraged over the white house and the biden administration rejecting that plan from poland to help facilitate a transfer of those fighter jets. some republicans have called for legislation that would push that forward. i think there is also still a lot of concern whether or not the humanitarian and military aid, the number, nearly $14 billion that has already been approved, is going to be enough. senator marco rubio said the needs are going to change week by week. we heard that from president zelinski. he says every weeks there needs
to be w sanctions slapped on russia. the battle is evolving at this point. i think we can continue to see ideas of legislation move forward but you already have some senators like joe mansion saying the president has taken action here. do we need to pass legislation to codify it. the president has delivered on that front. >> something else that we heard from president zelensky this week was an interview that he did with nbc when he said the world =-- world war iii may have already started. president biden said he will not take military action to defend ukraine because he does not to start world war iii. how does what zelensky's saying connect with what you hear on the ground? >> we hear very oftewhen we talk to people, they say this is like -- about more than ukraine. the soldiers of said this to me. this is not just about ukrnian territory and russian territory.
this is very more about russian expansionism, this is autocracy versus democracy versus a nationstate's right to determine its own fate and determine its own democratic institutions. so, when we're talking to soldiers and we are talking to young people, very often, young and educated and very liberal, o ften very western leaning ung people. so they are saying this is about way more than this. this is about our ability as a nation, any nation to determine its fate. just going off of the issue of military assistance as well, to a certain extent, the successes on the ground by the ukrainians, they have been a victim of their own success in some ways because when we are talking about air strikes and potential no-fly zones, essentially the ukrainians being able to hold off the russians has helped the biden administration to that
extent. because we do not have russian troops marching right towards the border with poland. and nato and basically facing off with nato. instead, what is happening is to some extent working for now. in many ways what the ukrainians are very aware of, and they talk about a lot is that they are fighting and dying for democracy in europe. they see it very much so, not just from a regional scale but a global scale. >> seeing it out of global scale, david, is also in some ways possibly what russia is looking at this war as. you have on the one hand, president putin at a rally just this week, being applauded. he was saying it is great his troops are pounding ukrainian cities. we also saw a russian protester , producer run on national television in russia with a sign, that said no more war. what are the internal dynamics president putin is having to
balance as the war goes on longer than he thought it might? >> he is running a dictatorship. that is had protests in the past, and he is usually reacted to them harshly. one of the reasons that he was so angry at hillary clinton during the 2016 campaign was in 2012 when she was still secretary of state, she had backed some russian protesters who had put on some fairly modest protests in moscow. i think that was one of the reasons putin decided to go into the 2016 election, even if he did it in a clumsy way. i think the big question that comes out of this larger, global issue you are raising is what did putin hope to do if he took ukraine quickly? i think clearly he was hoping that he would go into moldova, may be back to georgia where he conducted a war in 2008.
and try to go reconstruct elements of the old soviet union. even if he did not conquer those countries, they would be neutralized from turning to the west and part of what he called a russian sphere of influence. now he's got to go recalibrate that a bit, because he is not doing well. and this is what has people worried, because if he now cor nered, if the ruble continues to fall, if you default on his debt, which looks very likely, he could be tempted to scare the rest of the world off from ukraine by using a chemical or biological weapon, something that secretary of state blinken raised just on thursday. there are many in the pentagon who were he could use a tactical nuclear weapon, very small one, but one that would do huge damage. as a warning shot to the rest of the world, i'm serious about this. get out of my way.
and that is part of russian military doctrine. it's called escalate to deescalate. you raise the level and then negotiate. and that's the really scary element of how this could turn out. >> talking about biologica warfare and nuclear warfare as a warning shot is definitely scary stuff. you said that american officials are also worried that there are cyber attacks that could happen. what could the u.s. response to a cyberattack look like? and what impact could that have? >> sure. cyber is the dog who hasn't barked yet. all the early models of what the invasion look like started with cyber attacks on the ukrainian power grid, the communication system. that did not happen. we think but we don't know in part because putin miscalculated and thought this would be a quick war and didn't want to
destroy systems he would need when he was occupying the country. the bigger mystery is why it has not happened since. and whether it is the united states or other allies who interferes in those cyber attacks. the big concern now, of course is that he cannot reach our financial system without using cyber. that may still be coming. >> the other issue that is really at play here is that china could possibly be factoring into here. president biden spoke to china's president and in the call the white house said biden laid out the consequences china would face if it provides aid to russia. i'm going to stick with you david. what form support could china possibly provide to russia? you said you think that china might provide support. >> they may. you remember that on the first days of the olympics, putin went to china, signed an agreement with xi jinping, the president of china, that established an
anti-american, anti-western alliance. then he immediately did this invasion. we think the chinese knew he was going to invade but they did not know he would invade in a way that would reveal his weaknesses. the question now is what are the chinese going to do to bail him out? there are only two ways. one is to provide him with some financial backing. the second is to provide some drones and communications equipment and other things he asked for in the way of military climate. this is going to be hard for vladimir putin. he doesn't want to be the junior partner in the russia-china partnership. in the cold war, the soviet union was always the superior partner, and he does not want to be the vassal state but he doe sn't have any choice because china is the only one with the power and resources to bail him out of this. >> and rachel, i want to bring you in, because as david is
talking about the power dynamics here, the politics of this, too. you have two things going on, which is that russia is becoming very much a bipartisan enemy really of law makers on capitol hill but you also have people like madison -- who called baltimore zelinski a thug -- vlodomir zelensky a thug. he said he was rock a talk about the republican policies as they have evolved -- talk about the republican policies as they have evolved. >> i think republican leadership is trying to create some distance between some of these small groups of gop lawmakers who have spoken out either praising president putin or calling zeleky a thug. we even saw senate minority leader mitch mcconnell create some distance betwn former
president donald trump who obviously referred to president putin as a genius. and so, they are trying to create a very start divide, and definitely today, leader mccarthy spoke out against those words but also offered his support in this critical election year. this is definitely an interesting dynamic we are seeing play out there on capitol hill, but it is one where republican leadership wants to be firm. this idea of congress united in their support for ukraine but speaking out against russian aggression. they are trying to balance this. slamming president biden for, in their words, not going far enough soon enough. it is a delicate balance they are trying to achieve but leadership drawing the line from a handful of republican members who have decided to choose those words to refer to zelensky
and/or putin. >> je, you talked a bit about of the kindness you are seeing on the ground, but there is out this also, sounds like this resolve by ukrainians that they will be continued to defend what could be a months long engagement with russia invading their country. talk about what ukrainians are telling you in terms of how long they can really fight this war, as they are also dealing with kindness. jane: it is a question i put to everybody that i meet. how long can you hold off? ukrainian say, this is our soil, this is our country so we do not have any choice. we will hold off as long as we have to. it is not like this is a territorial dispute on the border. this is an entire nation that feels like it's essentially defending its own home. but, going forward, it is worth pointing out that these peace negotiations are still going on, stopng and starting. we spoke this week with zelensky
's chief negotiator. he was very bullish. describing the russians as having been almost count out. the change in tone over 20 days. they have gone from making ultimatums to actually talking. they are putting forward a very positive and confident outlook that there w-- will be successfl peace talks. they have lunch counter offenses, trying to push back the russians that just started in recent days. i do not think anybody expects the ukrainians to completely defeat the russian army and see it's on the way -- on its way. everyone is well aware it will be a case of getting the peace talks to a more serious place and they are hopeful that that could happen. of course, peace talks are determined to a certain extent on the battlefield. everyone is watching very closely to see if they can get the breakthrough. >> worth thinking about what it
is that putin's asking for. he's asking for neutrality, which zelensky may give him. but he is also asking zelensky basically to recognize crimea and the southern area belongs to russia. he hasn't backed off on that. that is why many here think the peace talks are a sham. while putin just tries to continue the attacks. it could be a while before that actually got to be a serious conversation. >> quickly, do you think the diplomatic solution here could be likely? i know you said they could be a sham in terms of these peace talks. >> wars end with diplomatic talks. putin must recognize he has lost a lot of altitude here. but his temptation when backed into a corner is to double down. and i think that is what we are seeing in the awful destruction of the cities. >> putin doubling down, really i
think it gets to the idea of what jane was talking about which is that there are these people that are fighting, they believe, for their freedom, for their families, for the country that theyove. thank you so much to jane, rachel and david for sharing your -- for coming on. we will continue our conversation on "washington week" extra. this week's topic, president biden's challenges here and abroad. find it on her website, facebook and youtube. tune in monday to the pbs newshour for live coverage the senate confirmation hearings for the supreme court nominee catania brown jackson -- ketaji brown jackson. my heart is with the family and loved ones of journalist killed and injured in ukraine while covering the war. it is reminder of the risks we take every day to tell important stories. thank you for joining us. good night from washington. >> corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by
-- >> consumer cellular. additional funding is provided by the estate of adams, ewing foundation, committed to bridging cultural differences in our communities. sandra and karl magnuson. robert and susan rosenbaum. the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
this program was made possible in part by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. it's ok. narrator: this is volodymyr zelenskyy. man: zelenskyy feels lik someone who's willing to--to talk to you. he feels like someone you know. a lot of people really do relate to him. narrator: he's the actor who played the president on-screen. hello? -good morning, mr. goloborodko. can i connect you with angela merkel? yes, you can connect. woman: he became an incredibly recognizable figure. by 2018, he has a million followers on instagram. narrator: his life imitated art when he decided to run for office for real...and win. [crowd cheering] man: putin must've thought that it was christmas every day