Transcript: National security adviser Jake Sullivan on "Face the Nation"
The following is a transcript of an interview with White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan airing Sunday, April 10, 2022, on "Face the Nation."
MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. Good morning to you, Jake.
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR JAKE SULLIVAN: Good morning, Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Vladimir Putin reportedly tapped a new central war commander for Ukraine, same general who oversaw a very brutal campaign in Syria where they bombed hospitals, killed civilians. Is this a signal that this is the type of scorched earth warfare that we need to expect?
SULLIVAN: Well, Margaret, I think it's actually just consistent with the way that Russia has conducted this war from the beginning. We've seen scorched earth warfare already. We've seen atrocities and war crimes and mass killings and horrifying and shocking images from towns like Bucha and rocket attack on Kramatorsk. So, I think this is an indication that we will see more of that. And it's our responsibility as the United States and the international community to flow weapons and military assistance to Ukraine so that they have the tools they need to fight back against this effectively. That's what the United States is intent on doing, and that's what we will do alongside our allies and partners.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Vladimir Putin's spokesperson said a few days ago that Russia has suffered significant losses of troops. But you say Russia still has forces it can use to outnumber Ukraine. Do you assess that Ukraine can win more than just the capital of Kyiv?
SULLIVAN: Well, first, let's pause there for a moment, because it is a remarkable thing that the Ukrainians won the battle of Kiev. Russia lost the battle of Kyiv. Kyiv still stands. The capital city of Ukraine was subject to an attack as its invading neighbor tried to conquer Kiev. And Russia failed. And they failed chiefly because of the bravery and skill of the Ukrainian armed forces. But they also failed because the United States and our partners put in the hands of those armed forces advanced weapons that help beat back the Russians. And so we were proud to be able to support the Ukrainians in that. Now the Russians are regrouping. They're refitting and they're refocusing. And the refocusing out in the east where they will try to make progress. Our job, Margaret, as I said before, is to help ensure that the Ukrainians are in a position to resist that advance and ultimately to be in the strongest possible position, both on the battlefield and at the negotiating table. That's what we're intent on doing. And we're working round the clock to deliver weapons and military assistance every day, including today.
MARGARET BRENNAN: European leaders are walking around the city of Kyiv. They're sending back diplomats, reopening embassies. What are the Americans going to go back?
SULLIVAN: Well, we're working through when we will be in a position to set our diplomatic presence back up in Kyiv. That's a judgment that gets worked through our security professionals. They are actively doing that. In the meantime, though, Margaret, the United States is surging resources, weapons, military equipment, but also diplomatic resources to support the Ukrainians. It was President Biden in the United States that took the lead at the United Nations last week, for example, to kick the Russians out of the Human Rights Council, allying the world to do that. It is the United States that is taking the lead in organizing and delivering not just our own military supplies, but those of allies and partners. So we'll keep doing that even as we work on getting American diplomats back into the country.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Jake, you're referring to a more muscular level of support, it sounds like. Does that mean the United States and President Biden have now authorized sending the kind of weapons that could be used to strike inside of Russia? And are you authorizing training of Ukrainian forces?
SULLIVAN: So first our focus is on helping the Ukrainians defend their territory in Ukraine and take territory back in Ukraine, territory that they have taken back, for example, in the north, in the northeast of the country. And we want to set them up to be able to do the same in other places as well. Second, when it comes to the issue of training, the U.S. is looking at systems that would require some training for the Ukrainians. And we are talking to them about how that might work –
MARGARET BRENNAN: Like what?
SULLIVAN: – outside of the country. But-- but we are also just just to finish on this point, because I think it's an important one. We're also looking to source weapons systems from allies and partners that the Ukrainians already know how to use. A good example of that is the S-300 air defense system that Slovakia sent this week. The reason they sent it is because the United States was willing to provide a Patriot battery to replace that system. So a lot of this is about getting our allies and partners who have other types of military equipment that is better suited to what the Ukrainians need actually deliver it. And we are helping them do so.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What are the bits of equipment you're talking about now?
SULLIVAN: Well, to be clear, I'm not going to get into, as I said at the podium earlier this week, advertising every type of military assistance the United States is going to provide for operational reasons, but also because we want to make sure that we are in a position where the Ukrainians actually can use whatever it is that we give them. But let me say this, Margaret, because I think it's very important. This week, Chairman Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and I spent 2 hours on the phone with the Ukrainian armed forces commander and President Zelensky's top adviser. And we went through every single one of their requests. Priority by priority and worked through a game plan for how either from our stocks or from the stocks of our allies and partners, we could get those to the Ukrainians. That's what we're in the process of doing. Some of that's been delivered. Some of it's on the way and some of it we're still working to source. But that's the kind of level of effort that the United States is putting into this, not just on our own behalf, but leading a coalition of countries to deliver for the Ukrainians.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Jake, I want to play for you something that President Biden said just after Russia invaded.
BIDEN SOUND ON TAPE: "No one expected the sanctions to prevent anything from happening. It has to show - this is going to take time. They are. Profound sanctions. Let's have a conversation in another month or so to see if they're working.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We're now past-- well past a month. Do you think that President Putin just doesn't understand the profound impact on his economy? Does he not feel it or does he just not care?
SULLIVAN: Well, first, Russia has changed its behavior in this war. They have retreated. They have pulled back from substantial portions of territory in northern and northeastern Ukraine –
MARGARET BRENNAN: Because of what's happening on the battlefield –
SULLIVAN: Now, chiefly the reason that they've made those adjustments is because they were beaten on the battlefield. But as you heard from Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesperson, just a couple of days ago at the podium, they're also acknowledging major battlefield losses publicly. And President Putin himself is acknowledging the pain on the Russian economy. He himself has spoken about the extent to which the Russian economy has gotten hit and other senior Kremlin officials have been forced to acknowledge that as well. In addition, as President Biden has said repeatedly, the goal of these sanctions in part is to impose costs on Russia to make it harder for them to fuel their war machine and over time, to grind down Russian power and capacity. And yes, as President Biden said, that will take time. But we will continue to squeeze Russia to impose costs on Russia. And we believe that as those costs mount, they will, in fact, improve Ukraine's position at the bargaining table and make an outcome of this war that Ukraine wants to see more likely.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But what you're laying out is a very slow bleed of the Ukrainian people. And what we are hearing from President Zelensky on this program last Sunday was an attempt to exterminate genocide, was the word he used at the U.N. this week. He talked about camps being set up. He said 2000 children have gone missing, abducted by Russia. This kind of intent, this kind of planning, it is hard for a lot of people to stomach that the United States doesn't have more of a direct responsibility to protect for a president who ran on human rights. How do you justify that?
SULLIVAN: We do have a direct responsibility. It's a responsibility to supply the Ukrainians with the tools they need to be able to defend their cities and push back against the Russians. And we have done that at unprecedented scope, scale and speed, and it has had a profound effect. The victory in the battle for the liberation of cities and towns in Ukraine, the resistance of the Ukrainians against Russian advances in the east. They are, as I said before, chiefly about Ukrainian bravery and skill, but they would not be possible without the supply of weapons and the generosity of the American people and the leadership of President Biden in rallying the world and those sanctions that are imposing severe costs on the Russian economy. They will have an effect. They will lead to a circumstance in which Russia has less capacity, less resources to be able to prosecute this war. So the United States is stepping up and is discharging its obligations on behalf of the Ukrainian people, on behalf of the principles of freedom and liberty and democracy and human rights. And we will continue to do so.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Jake Sullivan, thank you for your time today.
SULLIVAN: Thank you.