Clip: How can world leaders respond to Putin's threat of using nuclear force?

Sep. 30, 2022 AT 8:37 p.m. EDT

President Biden deals with a dangerous situation abroad as Russian President Putin annexes Ukrainian territory and says he will defend the region with the veiled threat of nuclear force.

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Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Yamiche Alcindor : But, I have to also, while we're talking about what's going on stateside, there is also some stuff that are really dangerous on abroad. President Biden is dealing with a dangerous situation. Russian President Vladimir Putin has now annexed four Ukrainian territories into Russia by holding a sham referendum to claim it was the will of the people. Putin says he will defend the new territories with a veiled threat of nuclear force. The actions are leading to increased fears of a full blown conflict between Russia and the West.
So, David, I'm so happy that you're at this table, because there is so much to talk about when it comes to Russia. And, every week, we're like, here is possibly a new nuclear threat. I'm a little worried. How concerned is the Biden administration and your sources when you talk to them about these actions by President Putin?
David Sanger : Well, they're concerned. They're more concerned than they were at the beginning of the war. At the beginning of the war, we went into this thinking, OK, Putin has got all kinds of normal Military options ahead of him to take over Ukraine, and, of course, he couldn't take over Ukraine.
And then, he is having a hard time holding the territory down in the south and the east. And, that's why people are worried more now than they were before, because if he can't rely on his conventional Military force, if he has been humiliated by the fact that they're being run out, he is going to have to think more about what are his other options, and they are a few fold, obviously, unconventional weapons, sabotage.
We're still trying to figure out who it was who was responsible for sabotaging the Nord Stream One and Two pipelines this week. But, there is - there are some good theories out about why it may play to Russia's interest. We're not certain that, in fact, they were responsible. There are chemical weapons or biological weapons. But, what Putin keeps coming back to is saying we have nuclear weapons and don't forget about it. And today, what did he say? He said, well, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they were the American decision. You were the ones who first used nuclear weapons, and you set a precedent doing it.
Yamiche Alcindor : Wow. Wow. I also want to ask you, in response to what Russia has been saying, Ukraine is now saying, hey, NATO, please let us in. They've been saying that for a while. I wonder what you make of the sort of ability, possibly, the potential for Ukraine to possibly be let into you into NATO, especially when I was looking today, there was a reminder that Finland and Sweden, their applications are moving through.
David Sanger : Their applications are not only moving through, they're moving through fast. And, I saw the President of Finland, when he was here earlier this week, and he thinks that they probably could well be in by the end of the year, maybe the beginning of next. But, Finland and Sweden were easy cases, right? They were established democracies and so forth.
Ukraine has always been a hard case. It's a hard case, in part, because there is still a lot of corruption. They were pretty nascent democracy, but also because once they're in, all the other NATO members know that they are then committed to direct conflict with Russia, because nobody is accepting that these four provinces are now Russian territory. Only the Russians were saying that. You notice really nobody is lined up behind them. And so, if the rule here is let's stay out of direct conflict between the United States and NATO and Russia, once they were in NATO, you are in direct conflict, and I think no one is really ready to take that step yet.
Yamiche Alcindor : Yes. Well, the other thing that Yasmeen you've been reporting on is that the White House and the Biden administration, they have new sanctions out because of what Russia has done here. What's your sense of why they think these sanctions are going to be different given the fact that we have seen the Biden administration put sanctions on Russia in the past?
Yasmeen Abutaleb : I think they've - this round really targeted a number of individuals, a number of people close to Putin. They've said they think individually targeted sanctions can be effective. I don't know that it's going to make a huge difference in the overall picture of the war and the economic picture in Russia and across Europe. But, I think they're trying to send a signal to Russia. And, Biden's National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan today said, the point of the sanctions is basically to just keep reducing Russia's ability to carry out a war like this and to carry out other conflicts, invade other neighbors and just make it very hard for them.
They also targeted companies that have helped with Russia's Military supply. And then, of course, they said that the U.S. was sending a warning in - with support from G7 countries, which was anyone that aided Russia or supported them in their annexation, was going to face severe consequences. So, I think this is more symbolic. This was obviously a move with little modern precedent from Vladimir Putin. And, I think you saw them targeting members of the Russian Military who have been accused of human rights violations and torturing prisoners of war. And, I think they're just trying to reduce Russia's capability to carry out the war as best as they can.
David Sanger : We're kind of sanctioned out at this point. I mean--
Yamiche Alcindor : David, jump in here.
David Sanger : Yes. I mean, the sanctions are very interesting. I think the most effective ones are the export controls which are making it hard for the Russian Military that build new equipment. It is going to make it hard for consumer electronics to be made and sold in Russia. But, the fact of the matter is that most of the sanctions are coming from the Western democracies, China, India, many other nations, Southeast Asia, they're really sort of hanging out on the sidelines. And, if you're really going to isolate Russia, it's got to be everyone in.


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