NATO Ambassador: “This Is a Very Bad News Story for Russia”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is visiting the Baltic nations — all of them NATO members — to reassure them, and to warn Putin that NATO is reinforcing its eastern flank. For more on this, Christiane speaks with U.S. Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith.

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JULIANNE SMITH, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Well, this is a really bad news story for the Russian military. And it’s bad news for President Putin. They do not have air superiority. They have not taken Kyiv, as they planned to do in the first few days of this conflict. President Zelenskyy is still the president of Ukraine. And what we have seen is some of these convoys, the 40-kilometer convoy that everyone has been keeping an eye on, in essence, has gone nowhere. So this tells us two things. On the one hand, it tells us a lot about the ability of the Russian military and the challenges, particularly the logistic challenges that the Russians are facing. It’s quite astounding, actually, their inability to provide their forces with the simple things like meals and fuel. But, secondly, it tells us a lot about the Ukrainian forces, their determination to fight, their will to fight, the capabilities that they’re bringing to bear, their spirit. It’s been unbelievable to watch the Ukrainians push back and use much of the training that they have received in recent years, really since 2014 and the annexation of Crimea. So we’re learning a lot each day of this conflict. We’re just 11 days in, but I think, honestly, this is a very bad news story for Russia when it comes to the state of their military forces.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: And yet, obviously, they have a whole lot back at home and they could, over time, resupply, as you know. How much Russian assault is coming from the skies? How much? I mean, the Ukrainians want a no-fly zone. You have said why it won’t happen. How much of the assault is coming from the skies? And do the Ukrainians still have defenses, anti-aircraft, and the like?

SMITH: Yes, I mean, I think the Russians wrongly assumed that they could go in and just immediately take out Ukraine’s air defense, and that in the first — the first couple days of the conflict they actually wouldn’t be seeing the Ukrainians in the air. But the opposite has come to pass. Their air defense has obviously taken some hits, but they are very much operating. Those air defenses are still operating in numerous locations throughout the country. So, this story is not over. And for a country like Russia that wanted to have air dominance in this conflict, they just haven’t been able to achieve that.

About This Episode EXPAND

Oleksandr Syenkevych, mayor of Mykolaiv, Ukraine, gives an update on destruction in his city. Ambassador Julianne Smith discusses NATO’s evolving plans to deter Russia. Ukrainian novelist Andrey Kurkov discusses the role of art during times of war. Bill McKibben explains how climate policy can be used to fight autocracy.