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Bob Schieffer interviews Secretary of State John Kerry

The secretary of state warns Russia that it should rethink its military intervention in Ukraine, warning of possible economic consequences and embarrassment on the world stage
John Kerry: Russia invading Ukraine is "an incredible act of aggression" 07:49

Bob Schieffer: We are joined now by Secretary of state John Kerry who is in Boston this morning. Mr. Secretary, thank you for being here. The Ukrainian Prime Minster says this morning that Russia's actions amount to a declaration of war and he says we are on the brink of disaster. Do you agree with that?

Secretary Kerry: Well it's an incredible act of aggression it is really a stunning willful choice by president Putin to invade another country. Russia is in violation of the sovereignty of Ukraine. Russia is in violation of its international obligations. Russia is in violation of its obligations under the UN charter, under the Helsinki Final Act. Its violation of its obligations under the 1994 Budapest agreement. You just don't in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text. So it is a very serious moment but it is serious not in the context, Bob, of Russia-US it is serious in terms of sort of the modern manner with which nations are going to resolve problems. There are all kinds of other options still available to Russia. There still are. President Obama wants to emphasize to the Russians that there are a right set of choices that can still be made to address any concerns they have about Crimea, about their citizens, but you don't choose to invade a country in order to do that.

Bob Schieffer: The President spoke to Vladimir Putin we are told for 90 minutes yesterday. The White House is describing it as the toughest phone call of his presidency. DO you think it had any impact?

Secretary Kerry: Well we are going to have to wait and see but I think it was a very important conversation. The President was very strong, he made absolutely clear that this is unacceptable and there will be serious repercussions if this stands. The President asked Mr. Putin, in fact told Mr. Putin that it was imperative to find a different path, to roll back this invasion and un-do this act of invasion. He pointed out the many different ways in which Russia could have chosen to act. I mean if you have legitimate concerns about your citizens go to the United Nations, ask for observers, engage the other country's government. There were any number of choices available to Russia, Russia chose this brazen act aggression and moved in with its forces on a completely trumped set of pre-texts claiming that people were threatened and the fact is that is not the act of somebody who is strong that is the act of somebody who is acting out of weakness and out of a certain kind of desperation. We hope that Russia will turn this around. They can. Again and again all week President Obama and I and others have insisted that we believe there is a way to deal with this issue. This does not have to be a zero-sum game. It is not Russia versus the United States, Russia v Europe, this is about the people of Ukraine, the people of Ukraine are who initiated what happened there. Their President Yanukovich, supported by Russia lost all support, all legitimacy, he fled in the night, his own supporters deserted him, they went to their parliament and they voted according to their parliamentary process so this is a democratic process that has placed this new government where it is and president Putin and Russia ought to respect that.

Bob Schieffer: Mr. Secretary, when you come right down to it, the President says there is a cost and I suppose there are certain diplomatic things you could do -- you could boycott the G8, and so on. But when you come right down to it, what can we really do here? I don't suppose anybody thinks were going to declare war on Russia here and send military forces there.

Secretary Kerry: Well there are very serious repercussions that can flow out of this. There are a broad array of options that are available, not just to the United States but to our allies. I spent yesterday afternoon on the phone with many of my counterparts. I talked to ten of the foreign ministers of those countries most engaged. The G8 plus some others and all of them, every single one of them are prepared to go to the hilt in order to isolate Russia with respect to this invasion. They're prepared to put sanctions in place, they're prepared to isolate Russia economically, the ruble is already going down. Russia has major economic challenges. I can't imagine that an occupation of another country is something that appeals to a people who are trying to reach out to the world. And particularly if it involves violence. I think they're going to be inviting major difficulties for the long term. The people of Ukraine will not sit still for this. They know how to fight. They've demonstrated remarkable bravery, Bob. And then you think about Yanukovich positioning his snipers on the rooftops of Kiev and not withstanding people falling to the right, to the left, these marchers kept on marching and they demanded their freedom and they demanded their opportunity to have their voice heard without a Kleptocracy and a tyranny governing them. I think Russia needs to think very carefully about the choice that it's making. And there are visa bans, asset freezes, isolation with respect to trade, investment, American businesses may well want to start thinking twice about whether they want to do business with a country that behaves like this. These are serious implications. And I know from my conversations yesterday: everyone of our allies, friends are determined to stay united and to make clear there is a price attached to this kind of behavior.

Bob Schieffer: Are we actually prepared , Mr. Secretary, to boycott the G8 meeting there?

Secretary Kerry: Well, we're absolutely prepared to. If we can't resolve it otherwise, but the preference of my President, myself, the entire administration, is to resolve this. We're not trying to make this a battle between East and West, we're not trying to make this a cold war. Nobody wants this kind of action, there are many ways to resolve this kind of problem, as President Obama urged President Putin yesterday - this is the moment to engage directly with the government of Ukraine. This can be resolved, we're prepared to mediate, to help, we're prepared to provide economic assistance of a major assort; we want the Congress to join us in providing that assistance. We hope that this can be resolved according to the standards of the 21st century. And frankly to the standards of the G8. If Russia wants to be a G8 country, it needs to behave like a G8 country, and I guarantee you that everybody is determined that if this cannot be resolved in a reasonable, modern, 21st century manner, there are going to be repercussions.

Bob Schieffer: Alright, well Mr. Secretary thank you so much for joining us this morning.

Secretary Kerry: Thank you

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