The following is a transcript of an interview with Secretary of State Antony Blinken that aired Sunday, March 6, 2022, on "Face the Nation."
MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who's in Moldova this morning. Mr. Secretary, good morning to you. Vladimir Putin--
SECRETARY OF STATE ANTONY BLINKEN: --Good morning, Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --has said that sanctions amount to a declaration of war. They are impacting his economy, but they're not stopping his military. When will sanctions stop the fight?
SEC. BLINKEN: Margaret, the impact of the sanctions is already devastating, which is presumably why he said what he said. The ruble is in freefall. Their stock market's been shuttered for- for almost a week. We're seeing a recession set in in Russia. Consumers aren't able to buy basic products because companies are fleeing Russia, so it's having a big impact. But at the same time, we continue to see President Putin doubling down and digging in on this aggression against Ukraine. That's continuing. I think we have to be prepared. Unfortunately, tragically for this to go on for some time.
MARGARET BRENNAN: NATO has said none of its 30 members are willing to set up a no fly zone. President Biden has been very clear. He has no interest in that or combat troops. But what more can the United States do here? If, for instance, the Polish government, a NATO member wants to send fighter jets, does that get a green light from the U.S.? Or you were afraid that that will escalate tension?
SEC. BLINKEN: No, that- that gets a green light. In fact, we're talking with our Polish friends right now about what we might be able to do to back fill their needs if in fact they choose to provide these fighter jets to to the Ukrainians. What could we do? How can we help to make sure that they get something to backfill the planes that they're handing over to- to the Ukrainians? We're in very active discussions with them about that. Look, I've been in Europe for the last couple of days working closely as always with our allies and partners at NATO, the European Union, the G7 countries, and all of us together are continuing to take steps to increase the pressure on Russia through additional sanctions, all of which are very actively under discussion and will be implemented in the in the coming days, as well as taking further steps to give the Ukrainians what they need to defend themselves against the Russian aggression.
MARGARET BRENNAN: How do you convince Vladimir Putin that this isn't ultimately about regime change? How do you get him to back down?
SEC. BLINKEN: For us, it's not about regime change. That's- the Russian people have to decide who they want to lead them and look, as I said, the challenge is this: Vladimir Putin continues to- to press this aggression. That's why I say I'm afraid this could go on for for some time, but is going to end and it's going to end with- with Ukraine prevailing because even as Putin has the capacity, because he can, the manpower, the equipment that he has that he can bring to bear can continue to grind down these incredibly brave and resilient Ukrainians. Winning a battle is not the same thing as winning a war. Taking the city is not the same thing as capturing the hearts and minds of Ukrainians. What they've demonstrated with extraordinary courage is that they will not be subjugated to Vladimir Putin's will to and be under Russia's thumb. So whether that takes another week, another month, another year to play out, it will and I know how this is going to end. But the question is, can we end it sooner rather than later with less suffering than, you know, to going forward? That's- that's the challenge, and that's why we're trying to exert as much pressure as we can on Putin. That's why we're trying to do as much as we can for the Ukrainians to make sure that they can defend themselves.
MARGARET BRENNAN: President Zelensky has repeatedly said that these may be his final days. If Russia kills him, what will be the consequence? And are you working on a contingency plan to support a Ukrainian government without him at the helm?
SEC. BLINKEN: The- first of all, let me say this, the leadership that the president Zelensky has shown the entire government has shown is remarkable. They've been the embodiment of this incredibly brave Ukrainian people. I was just a day ago in Ukraine, at least about 15 feet into Ukraine with my- my friend and colleague, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. The Ukrainians have plans in place that I'm not going to talk about or get into any details on to make sure that there is what we would call continuity of government one way or another. And let me leave it at that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I also want to ask you about another massive diplomatic undertaking, and this is the attempt to negotiate a deal to put a cap on Iran's nuclear program. Yesterday, Russia's top diplomat, Sergei Lavrov- Lavrov said you personally, he wants you to personally give him a written guarantee of exemptions from sanctions in order to keep cooperation on the nuclear deal. Are you giving him that? Is the entire Iran deal at risk?
SEC. BLINKEN: The sanctions that are being put in place and that have been put in place on Russia have nothing to do with the- the Iran nuclear deal and the prospects of getting back into that agreement. These things are totally different and are just are not in any way linked together, so I think that's- that's irrelevant. The question is getting back into the deal. Clearly, if we can do it in our interest, getting out of the deal was one of the worst mistakes that's been made in recent years. It let the entire Iranian nuclear program that we put in a box out of the box. And so if there's a way of getting back to reimplementing that deal effectively, we it's in our interest to do it and we're working on that as we speak. It's also in Russia's interest, irrespective of anything else for Iran not to be able to have a nuclear weapon or at have the capacity to produce a weapon on very, very short order. That interest remains again, irrespective of where we are in our relationship with Russia as a result of its aggression in Ukraine.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What are the prospects for that deal and also two other aspects here the American hostages that are being held by Iran right now? And do you see the prospect for Iran agreeing to stop threatening people on U.S. soil like they did a journalist living in New York, like they have threatened your predecessor, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo?
SEC. BLINKEN: We've made real progress in recent weeks on getting back to reimplementation of the JCPOA, the Iran nuclear deal, and I think we're close, but there are a couple of very challenging remaining issues and nothing's done until everything's done. And so unless we're able to resolve a couple of outstanding issues, then we don't get we don't get back to the deal, but we're working on it right now. We continue to believe that getting back to the deal is profoundly in our interests. Again, as I said, getting out of it was a huge mistake and letting Iran's nuclear program out of the box. Getting back into the deal on the right terms would put that program back in the box that it was in. So we'll see where we get in the in the coming days. But it is really coming down to whether we can resolve a couple of outstanding issues. If we can, we'll get back on the deal. If we can't, we won't.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But on those specific issues of stopping- stopping threats against those on U.S. soil and on releasing hostages are those two demands?
SEC. BLINKEN: So when it comes to hostages, we irrespective of any conversations and negotiations on the on the deal, that's something we're working constantly and we're working on a separate track not not tied to the agreement. So one way or another. We're going to continue to do everything we possibly can to get detained Americans arbitrarily detained Americans home, whether it's Iran or anywhere else. And that's something we're working again every single day when it comes to threats that that Iran is making when it comes to actions that it's taken outside of the nuclear area, including activities in the region in the Middle East that are threatening to us threatening allies and partners, again, irrespective of whether we get back into the deal or not. We will stand and act against those every single day. We were very clear when we were in the deal originally that nothing about the deal prevents us from taking action against Iran when it's engaged in actions that threaten us, threaten our allies and partners, that will very much continue. So it's not it's not contingent on the deal one way or another. We're doing that every day as well, and we're much more effective doing that when we're working closely with allies and partners.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mr. Secretary, thank you for your time.
SEC. BLINKEN: Thanks, Margaret. Good to be with you.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Face the Nation will be back in a minute. Stay with us.
for more features.