Dec 14, 2022

Russian Commander Appears to Call For Use of Nuclear Weapons Transcript

Russian Commander Appears to Call For Use of Nuclear Weapons Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsNuclearRussian Commander Appears to Call For Use of Nuclear Weapons Transcript

A Russian militia commander in Donetsk appeared on Russian state television calling for the use of nuclear weapons because he doesn’t believe Russia has the resources to win the war in Ukraine. Read the transcript here.

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Erin Burnett (00:00):

Out front tonight, “We have nukes for that.” That is defeating NATO. It is a direct threat from a Russian commander broadcast on Russian State TV. He says Russia cannot win the war he clearly believes it is fighting without nukes.

Alexander Khodakovsky (00:14):

[foreign language 00:00:17].

Translator (00:18):

We realize that our resources, of course, have their limits and the next spiral of escalation can only be one, nuclear.

Alexander Khodakovsky (00:25):

[Foreign language 00:00:29].

Translator (00:29):

And we don’t have the resources to defeat the NATO block with conventional means, but we have nuclear weapons for that.

Alexander Khodakovsky (00:35):

[Foreign language 00:00:38].

Erin Burnett (00:38):

Defeating the NATO block with nuclear weapons, that commander’s cavalier certainty about nuclear weapons is chilling and it comes as the war is now on the verge of a dangerous new phase. CNN is learning. The United States is now finalizing plans to send the most sophisticated air defense systems on the planet to Ukraine. We’re talking about the US Patriot missiles that Ukraine frankly has been pounding the table asking for since the war began. The system can take down tactical ballistic missiles, cruise type missiles, aircraft as well. Now for Russia, Patriot missiles have been positioned as a red line. The former Russian present, Dmitry Medvedev has warned NATO against providing Ukraine with them, saying that if NATO did that the Western Alliance would immediately become a legitimate target of Russian armed forces. Those are powerful words, and based on Medvedev’s words, Putin clearly views this move as an escalation.

All of this news coming as air raid sirens blared across all of Ukraine today, that familiar now haunting sound as Putin ramps up his air assault with crucial help from his close ally Belarus. And tonight there is word of snap Belarusian military drills along the Ukraine border. The country’s defense ministry announcing what it’s calling a sudden inspection of combat readiness. Now military equipment is also on the move in Belarus, and remember, it is a country where Putin pulls the strings. Just four days ago, here he is appearing alongside the Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, that is at an economic summit. And now today, the Belarusian military is building two river crossings along the Nemen and Berezina rivers. The big question is whether this is more saber-rattling or actually something more in light of the escalation, it is unclear at this hour. But what is clear is that Putin’s military situation as it is growing evermore tenuous.

And out front now, Douglas London, former CIA counter terror chief for South and Southwest Asia. He’s a Russian speaker who served with the CIA, clandestine service for over 30 years tracking KGB agents. Also with me, retired Army General, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, who is also a former assistant Secretary of State for political and military affairs. Thanks so much to both of you. And General Kimmitt, let me start with you. Ukraine fortifying its northern border, I mean those are really powerful images that Will was able to capture of those trenches, the Belarusian Defense Ministry in a turf statement announcing these snap military drills. You’ve had all these changes in the military and intelligence structures there, what do you think this could be?

Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt (03:17):

Well, I certainly don’t think it’s going to be an invasion from Belarus, the way that the Russians invaded from Belarus, but we didn’t think the Russians were going to invade either. Logically, because of the size of the Belarusian army, I think the best it can do is draw forces away from the south and away from the center of Ukraine to lighten up the lines along the front lines. I think it’s important to remember that when the Ukrainians did their counterattack during October, they actually feinted, they actually looked like they were going from the south, but their main effort was in the north. So this actually could be a feint so that the Russians could actually increase their fight in the south. But as for an attack by Belarus, I just don’t see it making any sense at all.

Erin Burnett (04:10):

So Doug, the context here, of course is that the clock is ticking, right? That the temperatures are below freezing, well below freezing and the clock is ticking. And independent Russian news outlet, we were playing that conversation a moment ago, but an independent news outlet is reporting that the wives of mobilized Russian troops are complaining, and they’re complaining their husbands are getting really sick from the poor conditions that they’re living under. In this case, at a Siberian trading camp. They say they’re living in tents heated by wood burning stoves, temperatures are well below zero, that any medicine that they have, they actually brought themselves and that they are not being properly trained. I mean, it goes on and on. This is in the Baikal Times, so this is in a Russian paper.

And then one of the wives says, Douglas, and this is the thing that really stuck out to me. “We believe that all this is needed for a just cause. We are proud of the guys, we don’t blame the authorities.” So even with all this, even with that call we heard, they take all that anger and frustration, the absurdity of their situation, and they don’t turn on Putin. What does that tell you?

Douglas London (05:16):

Well, first of all, good evening, Erin. It’s not surprising. It’s been consistent with what glimpses we’ve seen of Russian society, that they’ll complain about the mechanics of what’s going on in the war, but they seem to buy into Putin’s narrative that Ukraine represents a significant threat, an existential threat, perhaps, it’s Nazi-fied. And you don’t really see a lot of popular disenchantment about fighting Ukraine, you see more just complaints about how the Russians are fighting it. And you also see a great effort to deflect any criticism directly from Putin and putting it on the apparatus, the bureaucracy, the army.

Erin Burnett (05:52):

Mm-hmm, which gives him more latitude. And General Kimmitt, as Russia continues to bombard Ukrainian cities, you hear those air raid sirens across the country, barrages of missiles come in now with some regularity here, CNN is exclusively reporting that the Biden administration is preparing to send the Patriot defense system, the most sophisticated air defense systems on the planet. That is the long-range Patriot missile system. What would that mean to Ukraine’s ability to fight off Russia’s air attacks? Putting aside that Russia has said that that would be a legitimate reason to target NATO itself by Russia, what would it do for Ukraine’s defenses?

Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt (06:34):

Well, it would do two things. Number one, it would significantly alter the ability of the Russians to send cruise missiles and tactical ballistic missiles into Ukraine. But more important, it would bolster the civilian population inside of Ukraine right now. Let’s be very clear, Putin is no longer targeting the Ukrainian military, he’s targeting the Ukrainian people, their infrastructure, their electricity. He is taking the fight to the people. So putting the Patriot missiles in, in my view, is a wise movement because this deflects and mitigates, [inaudible 00:07:11] not eliminate Putin’s ability to take his war to the people inside of Ukraine.

Erin Burnett (07:18):

Doug, last night I spoke with the recently departed US ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan. So this is somebody who recently saw Putin up close, he was in that role for more than two years under Presidents Trump and Biden and he was with Putin directly, personally in that time. So I asked him about the speculation that we all see about Putin’s health. We’re showing pictures of him now. So you can see a difference if you just look at a picture in the past two years. There is a difference. And the ambassador told me that Putin looks “puffy”. As someone who follows Russia and Putin so closely, do you agree with that?

Douglas London (07:55):

It’s hard to speculate from what we’ve seen on the outside, identifying illnesses and the state of health among national leaders, particularly those of our rivals, like Putin, is a major intelligence requirement for the community. And I would tell you the CIA has vastly creative ways of trying to get tissue samples and such to try to get a better look. But otherwise, you’re extrapolating from open data, and what does it mean? What are the consequences? If Putin is ill, does it mean he becomes more desperate? Does it mean that we could look forward to a change in regime? And would the change in regime be any better, any different? We’re talking about Putin perhaps engaging the Belarusians to attack.

Now, here’s a country that within two years had protest marches of hundreds of thousands of people, and you’d have to think it’d be a pretty desperate act that could actually reignite the fire in Belarus to set the stage for its opposition largely overseas to stir the emotions of folks in the country, including its military. So health remains a critical component, but even if you know the answers, it’s, what does it mean to you?

Erin Burnett (08:58):

All right, thank you both very much. I appreciate your time tonight.

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