tv Sens. Jeanne Shaheen Thom Tillis Discuss U.S. Role in NATO CSPAN September 26, 2022 11:41pm-12:29am EDT
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putin further escalated the dangers of swirling around the war in ukraine, the mobilization of 300,000 troops. only thinly veiled threats of nuclear weapons use. we have witnessed remarkable u.s. leadership and transatlantic solidarity and unity since putin's february 24 invasion, providing assistance to you great and bolstering
bipartisan support from congress has been crucial and consistent for supporting ukraine and strengthening nato including the remarkable 95-1 ratification i the senate of membership applications for finland and sweden. to our audience, thank you for joining us from all over the world for this important discussion. i encourage you watching to join the conversation on social media and share any questions you have using #acfrontpage. it is my pleasure to pass the floor to our moderator. take it away. nick: thank you very much, and welcome to this fantastic and timely panel on ukraine, russia,
nato and we will touch a little bit about china and the black sea. i want to remind our audience what fred said, please submit questions on twitter and social media with #acfrontpage or inside zoom. we will go about 30 minutes or so then leave time for questions. i just returned from ukraine, i saw some of the successes ukraine has had along the eastern front in kharkiv luhansk from the north. at the same time, we see the most dramatic escalation since february, both the mobilization announced by putin and the impending imminent annexation of at least four parts of ukraine. give us a sense of where you see the war today, and where it is going.
senator, i think you were on mute. sorry. sen. shaheen: vladimir putin's responding to the successes of ukrainians and their counteroffensive, because he is clearly getting death threats. -- getting desperate. he showed that with the call up -- call of the draft in russia, and the pictures coming out of russia over the weekend. the amazing lines at the borders as people try to escape the draft, the demonstrations that are going on in the country. in the interviews with russians who acknowledge they want to leave the country because they do not want to be part of this war. they do not want to fight in a war they do not believe in. that has been amazing. it raises the spectrum of what
his -- what is putin going to do next? there are veiled threats of using nuclear weapons, i think it is important for the biden administration to be very strong in the response that there would be significant reprisals for anything putin may do with respect to nuclear weapons. we need to be very clear that we have red lines and what those are. i think it is not yet clear what the next phase of the war will be, but what is continuing to be so important has been the unified response from the west to what putin is doing. sen. shaheen: we will talk about that unified response and i do want to come back to the nuclear threats in detail. talk more about the state of the war, as you see it. a great success we have seen in the last few weeks by the
ukrainians, especially in the east. slower in the south, but they are going to struggle to seize back most of the territory they say they need to seize back before diplomacy can begin, and winter is coming. there are a lot of people that are worried about this conflict when winter starts. tell us how you see the conflict evolving the next few weeks and months. sen. tillis: i think ukrainian leadership, the ukrainian army have demonstrated they are resilient, they are good stewards of the resources of the united states. nato partners and allies, providing to their quick studies. they have entirely new weapon systems, they have demonstrated what i think his extraordinary skill over a short period of time. the conflict may reduce
somewhat, there are going to be troop movements, counter offenses. the united states and our nato partners and allies need to make sure we continue to provide the support. humanitarian assistance, military aid and training that is necessary for them to sustain it. they have demonstrated a good investment, we have to continue to communicate to the people in the united states and across the free world that this is important. we all have a stake in it, we need to stand for your cranes -- for ukraine's freedom. nick: senator shaheen, do you acknowledge ukraine will struggle to get territory back in the next few weeks before winter starts? what is the implication of that moving forward? sen. shaheen: they have a big challenge. one of the amazing things has been the willingness of ukrainians to fight against the odds on the part of the russians.
as senator tillis said, it has been important not just to have bipartisan support for that effort in congress, but also to have ukrainians helping us and making the case to the public in the united states and other western allied countries about why that is so important. this week, i had a chance to meet with four women of the ukrainian military. they were so impressive. one of the women said to me, they were making the case for why the united states needs to continue to provide the arms it is going to take for them to win the war. one young woman said to me, we want you to give us the arms so we can fight the russians, so you don't have to. i think continuing to help us with making the case, not just in congress, but to the voters in my state of new hampshire and across the country about why this is such an important effort
for us to support is really critical. president zelenskyy has been masterful at continuing to make the world aware of the challenges they are facing and the successes they have and what they need. that is very important as we go into the winter, and as you point out, holding onto the gains they have made is going to be challenging. the economic situation in the country of ukraine is very difficult. making sure we can continue to provide the arms they need. all of that is going to be critical in order for them to hold onto those gains and continue to make this offensive as strong as possible before the winter months set in, when we know it is going to get much tougher. nick: one last question about the battlefield. obviously, many of the russian tactics have been ridiculed
since february and march. we have seen a real deficiency tactically, operationally, as well as in many of their vehicles and munitions. yet there are 150 thousand , russian troops dedicated to ukraine right now, they promised an additional 300,000. we see all the video of people showing up, questioning the mobilization. still, is there a concern that, as the number -- 300,000 -- if that number is doubled, that ukraine will struggle or put -- or could struggle more as russia sends more troops to the front? sen. tillis: there is no question. one of the biggest surprises i think, since february 24, is how inept the russian military is at executing what we thought they would be able to do in multiple domains. keep in mind, it has been probably reported that russia thought they were going to
establish their superiority within a couple of days and control on the ground, including kyiv in a couple of weeks. we know the noncommissioned officer corps is in shambles, it will take them a decade or more to have officers who are commanding on the ground to have the confidence in the enlisted people who are fighting the fight. i think russia has a serious credibility problem. putin has a serious credibility problem, with the very people he is asking to lay down more life. fatalities or casualties, estimates between 80000 and 100,000 people. i believe he is going to have a difficult time. we are talking about challenges ukraine will have over the winter, they will be there. their fighting spirit is not one of their challenges.
russia and putin can only go so long until he has to admit he has suffered more casualties in the months since this war started than he did in the entire engagement of afghanistan. he is only a couple years away from grounding his entire commercial fleet. i think the internal pressure of the kremlin and internal pressure he will ultimately get from his own population is a far greater threat over the winter than the ukrainians will have. nick: let us talk about how putin's responding. we mentioned a couple times with a very overt nuclear strategy. jake sullivan was on the morning shows, he said this. any use of nuclear weapons will be met with catastrophic consequences for russia. that phrase was very specific and repeated three times, we have been clear and specific about what that will entail. senator shaheen, you first.
do you believe the administration has been clear and specific enough with the russians behind closed doors and now in public? and what do you think the planning and response should be for any kind of russian nuclear event? >> sen. shaheen: one of the things jake sullivan also acknowledged was there are continued conversations with top russian leadership, sort of the red phone we remember from the old soviet days. those conversations are ongoing, that is very important. i think the president at the u.n. was very clear in front of the world community of nations about our position and a concern about putin's raising the nuclear threat. he was also clear in terms of china, letting them know clearly where the united states stands.
i think jake sullivan delivered that message again, as you pointed out, over the weekend. it is a message we need to continue to deliver. in the meantime, we need to make sure we are prepared to respond, should we need to. we just confirmed a new head of strategic command, which is the command in the military that has oversight over all of our nuclear weapons. we need to make sure we are doing everything we need to in order to prepare. but also, we are pointing out what the dangers are of escalating any nuclear conversation so people understand what is at stake. again, i think the administration is trying to act on both fronts. both to point out that we are prepared to take action if we need to, but that this is not
something we ought to be thinking about because of the catastrophic circumstances that what happened, -- what happened should putin use nuclear weapons. nick: do you think the administration has done well enough to make sure putin in the country knows what is at stake? >> sen. tillis: i think what was reported over the weekend was appropriate. i do not necessarily think we should jump what all of those outcomes could be. there are a number of things we can continue to do in terms of tightening the economic sanctions against russia and anyone else who cooperates with them. we also have to be prepared to stand against the use of a tactical nuclear weapon. i believe to this point, the tone and approach the administration has used is absolutely appropriate. nick: let us talk about weapons. last week, the administration announced another $600 million to ukraine.
that brings the total to $15.1 billion since february. yet, ukraine is asking for more. senator shaheen, they are asking for munition for the high mobility multiple rocket launch system. why has the u.s. not given the longer-range munition, and do you think it is still ok not to give into ukraine's demand for that particular munition? sen. shaheen: i think ukraine is doing exactly what they ought to be doing. if i were in ukraine right now and a ukrainian, i would be doing exactly the same thing. the message that i heard from those for ukrainian soldiers who in my office this week was very strong about why they need the weapons, the kinds of weapons they need. they are making the case to
congress and the american public about the importance of supporting them with those weapons. i am a member of the ukrainian caucus, we are also trying to argue with the administration that we need to be doing everything possible. i think the administration is trying to do that. we also have to balance ukraine's needs with our own needs for defense of the united states, and i think that is part of the conversation. secretary austin is meeting regularly with the defense minister in ukraine. they have almost weekly conversations, as i understand. they are meeting with other effort, and i think we are continuing to try to do everything possible to support the ukrainians in this effort.
nick: senator tillis, do you agree? is the administration doing everything possible, or doing enough, to support ukraine? i mention some of the weapon systems ukrainians continue to ask for, the longer-range systems that the administration continues to deny. sen. tillis: i suspect we will see, just as we have over the past several months, we have seen a steady flow of capabilities coming from the united states and nato partners and allies as we understand the challenges on the battlefield. i believe we should be open to any sort of a solution that would help ukrainians be successful in their fight. we also have to keep in mind that anytime we feel a major weapon system, there are a lot of logistical, resupply, a number of other questions that have to be answered before you make the investment. as i said earlier, i think the
ukrainians demonstrated a really incredible ability to learn, master and utilize the weapon systems we provide them. that serves as a reasonable argument to say, what more can we do to provide better standoff distances? ukrainians have been good and the focus of their attacks, though this could easily spread beyond the borders of ukraine. ukraine has not done that. anything we can do to help them secure the situation in advance the battlefield should be on the table. not to diminish at all of what senator shaheen said about balancing that with our own strategic stockpiles, we have to balance both. we have to have an industrial base that can answer the call. nick: senator shaheen, does germany, another country ukraine has criticized in terms of how much it sent, do germany and
others need to do more to help ukraine militarily? sen. shaheen: i think we all need to try to do more. again, it is a balance. as we look at what appears to be a protracted conflict, it is important for us to be able to ensure we can provide the munitions long-term that are being requested. the other thing that we have not really talked about that i think is important to point out is, one of the -- the ukrainians have been amazing. they have been courageous, they have been smart. they have done things militarily that i certainly did not realize they would be able to do. i think that was the assessment of a lot of people at the start of this war. but one of the benefits they have had has been the training from the united states and our allies that has been ongoing since russia's invasion of crimea. that has made a very big
difference as we think about the preparation for the ukrainian military for this conflict. that training is really critical and it points out that wars are not just won by weapon systems and munitions. they are absolutely critical. they are also won by strategy and by having men and women in the military who are trained to know what they are doing, who have their eye on the mission. certainly, that is what we are seeing in ukraine. nick: i met a lieutenant in the trenches in 2016, he was 22 years old and had come out of basic training wearing american combat boots, holding an american weapon, and contrasted that to someone who is 10 years older who was a post-soviet in his training. all of that has enormously shifted.
ukrainian military ability not only on tactics, but operationally and strategically. senator tillis, let us use that to segue to western long-term support. at a conference in kyiv i was at a couple weeks ago, president zelenskyy talked about winter is coming. the phrase was used because kyiv is worried about western support waning, especially as europeans pay more for natural gas and kyiv fears pressure from the government to question some punishments that are on russia. what do you think washington can do to avoid a kind of ukraine fatigue that i know ukraine and others are fearing and make sure , especially support in washington, but also in europe, sustains through this protracted conflict, as senator shaheen pointed out?
sen. tillis: first and foremost, we have to continue to talk about it. we have to communicate to our constituents why something thousands of miles away is so important to the united states and western democracy. i believe we also have to communicate to our constituents and colleagues and nato countries and partners to support the effort that this is a real test. if russia succeeds here, what does that tell china in the south china sea? if a nation can violate international boundaries, in the family of nations who believe in sovereignty and democracy were to fracture, more complex will occur. having said that, i feel very good about the posture of nato. i am very happy with the contributions of germany, france, other nato countries.
i am excited about finland and sweden joining the nato alliance and adding so much to our mutual security agreements. i think we have to go back and remind people of the death and despair the ukrainian people are experiencing because of a violation of international law, on the part of one man. we have to understand that the border -- it does not end in ukraine. if putin were successful in ukraine, do you honestly think he will stop there? we know better. we know he has his sights set on reestablishing the soviet empire. this is not a once and done incursion of ukraine, that is why we have to have our constituents and policymakers be invested for the long-term. sen. shaheen: as thom says, it is not just about our public and what is happening with the war. our adversaries are watching very carefully.
china is watching, iran is watching, north korea is watching. there is a lot riding on the outcome of this. making that case to the voters of new hampshire is something that is very important. i know thom is making it in north carolina. we need to point out what americans have at stake in this war. nick: senator tillis, as you talk to people in north carolina , i wonder if anyone has questioned whether the war is worth it. i also want you to connect that with the idea of -- we talked about long-term support for ukraine. but is there any further punishment that the u.s. could consider on russia, on putin that could change some of his calculus? the ukrainians certainly want the state sponsorship. i know it has been heavily debated.
sen. tillis: there are still a number of things we can do economically to constrain russia's ability to have the currency to fight the war. i think we should examine all of those. nonlethal highly effective tools that we can use to actually make putin, in particular the kremlin , ask themselves whether they want this to go on for months or even years. i think that we have to continue to work with countries in the region who understand what i mentioned in response to the prior question. there's sovereignty and their safety -- their sovereignty and safety is on the line. in north carolina, i do get questions about why we worry about the invasion of a country we may not be able to identify on a map. i go back and explain to them that every time in history we only looked inward, we knew there was a global threat, we paid a price. that came in the lives and
devastation economically. we have the opportunity to avoid it by stopping putin in ukraine. nick: i have got about eight minutes left on my clock, so i do want everyone to remember to send in your questions. looks like we have got a number already. i will do a lightning round before going to your questions. senator shaheen picked up something i mentioned in passing. do you believe russia is a state sponsor of terrorism? sen. shaheen: i do. all we have to do is look at the scenes from bucha where we have uncovered torture chambers, mass graves and i believe, sadly, that vladimir putin has been sponsoring terrorism. rape as a weapon of war against the women of ukraine. i think there is a lot of support in the senate to look at
russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. nick: i will ask you both this question. what is your message to president biden, the administration that has been resisting that designation? sen. shaheen: i know there is concern on part of the administration, because they want to keep lines of communication open with russia. and i appreciate that. my beef is not with the russian people, i think most of the russian people have been misinformed. they have had propaganda from putin about what is really happening in ukraine. i do not think if they had been given the choice, they would have gone into this war without putin. i do think it is important for us to look at ways we can continue to keep dialogue with the russians. we have to hold putin accountable for these war crimes. we cannot let him or any other leader do what he has done in
ukraine and have the world walk away from that, without holding him accountable and some of the perpetrators accountable. i know we are engaged in helping collect documents to look at the international criminal court and what could be done, but i think we have to look at other ways to ensure there is accountability for what is happening here. nick: senator tillis? accountability versus dialogue? sen. tillis: i agree with senator shaheen. we both think putin and his inner circle are guilty of being state sponsors of terror. all you have to do is look at their investments in ukraine and africa where they are killing, raping, and terrorizing people across the globe.
you walk a fine line when you're trying to de-escalate the situation, but there is a strong recognition by members of congress in the house and senate that they are a state sponsor of terror and they should be held accountable like any other organization that has been designated such. nick: 27 nato members have ratified finland and sweden. president erdogan of turkey has set conditions on sweden that might be difficult. senator shaheen, what is the message to those three countries who have not ratified? sen. shaheen: there are ongoing negotiations to encourage slovakia, turkey, and hungary to
ratify finland and sweden. it is in nato's interest. it is in the interest of those three countries. the security, what sweden and finland bring to nato is significant. it is important for them to get included as soon as we can. nick: should nato be doing more, senator tillis? sen. tillis: finland and sweden need to be in nato as quickly as possible. the united states ratify the treaty in nearly record time. we need to get the three men remaining -- three remaining nations to do the same. this is important. not only important because of the increased support that finland and sweden will give to
us. they are an important part of the world. they have their arctic and baltic capabilities, with finland's extraordinary military. i hope that my colleagues in turkey, hungary, and slovakia recognize this is an important matter to be done quickly. nick: let's expand out a bit want to talk about the black sea in china and we have got a couple of questions about the black sea. i will combine what i wanted to ask with these questions. we have got questions about the black sea security act. senator shaheen, you and senator
romney are the cosponsors of the u.s. strategy on the black sea. so why do we need a new strategy on the black sea and what should the u.s. be doing to thwart any kind of russian activity? sen. shaheen: we have not had a strategy is in the black sea region and that is apparent in this war. all you have to do is look at what has happened that has to do with the inability to get the reach that is so critical feeding into the world because russia has been able to keep that from happening. i think the effort by the u.n. to open those shipping lanes has been important. but it is only a fraction of what we need to get done. this is a very important region, it is important to all the countries that border the black sea. it is also important to the united states and the rest of the world. and we need a strategy that
recognizes the collaboration between our agencies within the united states government, between our military and state department and economic policy, but we also need to think about working with those countries that border the black sea about how we can work going forward to ensure we are not in a position 10 years, 20 years from now that russia can blockade the black sea and the way they have in this war. nick: is it time to regulate the black sea to from becoming a russian link? sen. shaheen: i think it is. i have to think about where we might be in the lead up to the war in ukraine if some of the freston -- western allies had
left our ships in the black sea my weather that would have put us in a better position come the start of the wars in ukraine. we have to take a look at that and again, we need a strategy for this region going forward. sen. tillis: nato has been officially willing to talk about china in its documents and so much of the u.s. focus still today, but for the future, will be on beijing. nick: let's start with this question. what do you believe beijing's lessons are? what are they taking from the war in ukraine when it comes to taiwan?
sen. tillis: a lot of the things that came out of the nato summit in madrid, china is facing threat that should be relevant to nato. china takes a look at when everybody thought nato was fractured. extraordinary nato response we have had since february 24. they need to understand that not only does that recognize a significant military alignment, but it also recognizes a huge economy combining the economies of nato and the united states. china has to understand we were equipped to do what we had to do to have a consequence for russia. if they were to do something similar, they should expect a similar response. hopefully, that by itself has a consequence over china's aspirations. but as you know, there investing across the globe and in many cases you question whether that is for economic purposes. there is an alliance that was
stress tested and they are watching our results over time, which is why it is critically important we maintain the commitment to ukraine until there is a successful outcome. nick: do you fear one of the lessons could be, as we talked about ukrainians, really being trained and assisted by the americans more today? for eight years, the taiwanese were going through a slow modernization effort. its government has a little bit of fighting amongst itself in a way we saw the ukrainians of fighting. could beijing take the opposite, lesson, that they need to speed up before the taiwanese embrace strategy and before the americans can help them for many
years. sen. tillis: ultimately so. you take a look at house china has been able to be technologically successful, it has been largely in capitalism and reaping the rewards. you have to keep in mind, china now has a middle-class twice the size of the population of the united states. if they are looking at something that can cause a severe economic disruption to an economy already on thin ice, that has to be a mitigating factor for if they can move quickly in terms of results. nick: we have got a question as part of the atlantic council. what should nato's role be in addressing the chinese challenge and can european allies play a larger role? they have come along in the past few years, but nowhere near as
far as the trump and biden administrations. shaheen that is why the -- sen. shaheen: that is why the nato strategic concept is so important. the fact that when we were in madrid, there were four specific countries. south korea, japan, new zealand and australia. what happened in the pacific region and the far east is very important to europe, nato and to the united states. i think that will become increasingly recognizable as we go into the future. one of the pieces of legislation that has just passed is in the foreign relations committee has been a bill to address taiwan to provide assistance to taiwan and to think about ways in which we can continue to support them. because they are a democracy.
and going forward, so that hopefully we don't get to a position where china decides that they are going to invade taiwan in the same way russia invaded ukraine. nick: there has been a debate about that, calling taiwan a non-major ally. sen. shaheen:. i would point out that some of those concerns have been addressed that came out of the committee. host: we have got five minutes left. we have one question i want to spend the rest of the time debating. it is a big one. but i think we can do it in five minutes. someone asked this. when thinking about the end of the war, should u.s. strategy include off ramps?
when should diplomacy begin in earnest? sen. tillis: only when president zelenskyy, the ukrainian people believe it is something they can accept. i for one cannot imagine a scenario where we should tell a nation who has lost tens of thousands of people, whose women have been raped and murdered, that now is the time to negotiate to fall short of what they, the ukrainian people, think is the best interest of the ukrainian people. host: senator shaheen, does that include if we have to support militarily and economically, if we have to do that indefinitely? sen. shaheen: the position of the administrative has been supportive in a bipartisan way. certainly in the senate and in the house as well.
it has been that the ukrainians need to make that decision as senator tillis said about when they are willing to negotiate. i had a chance to read your interview with foreign minister kuleba where he pointed out he started negotiating with russia at the point russia is at its lowest. it may not be the best time to try and negotiate because vladimir putin may have something else up his sleeves. that is why i think we have got to let the ukrainians decide what makes the most sense to them and support them in any way that we can. sen. tillis: just to add very quickly, the reason why i think it is so important to come out of ukraine, are we going to have
a discussion about moldova or other nations that are within putin's desires to reestablish the soviet union, the russian empire? to me, that is why it is so important to make sure that the people who are suffering the most have the sole say in what a reasonable outcome is. >> does that mean to both of you -- the off ramps, the off ramps that only exist if zelenskyy builds them? is that where you guys stand right now? sen. tillis: that is where i am right now. sen. shaheen: it is. one of the ways to help president zelenskyy and ukraine build those off ramps is to provide the support they need now so they can be stronger on the battlefield. so that russia does not have other options. they know they are losing and it is in their interest to be
willing to negotiate with the ukrainians. >> and the concern now is that the war is only about to escalate if russia will annex territory that they partially control in ukraine. putin will claim those areas are protected by russian strategic weapons. i would argue ukraine has called that bluff a bit in attacking crimea. i know i have pushed you a couple of times now on being worried about the winter and given what we have said about the war escalating. the bottom line is, it sounds like you are pretty positive about the direction of nato, of the western alliance and ukraine's ability to fight back on russia. sen. tillis: i am very proud of what i have seen of the united states response and the response of nato. it is critically important. this is just not a war between two countries with negotiations
at some point in time. this is a great power trying to reestablish a failed empire and to go through every country that he can to murder and occupy to that end. we have to stand up and hopefully leave a good page in history for the way we responded. that is for the ukrainian people. host: pardon my moderating duties and needing to end on time. on behalf of senator tillis, senator shaheen, thank you for being with us and thanks for being part of the atlantic council front-page event. senators, thank you. always a pleasure to talk to you both. >> was the congress september 30 funding deadline, they are expected to work on a spending bill to avoid shutdown.
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