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Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on March 20, 2022

3/20: Face The Nation
3/20: Austin, Qin, McConnell 46:04

On this "Face the Nation" broadcast moderated by Margaret Brennan:

  • Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
  • Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Qin Gang
  • Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova
  • Dr. Scott Gottlieb

Click here to browse full transcripts of "Face the Nation."  

MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm Margaret Brennan in Washington. And this week on FACE THE NATION, international outrage grows as Vladimir Putin's brutal assault on Ukraine ramps up, with increasingly barbaric attacks on civilians. Russian forces continue to struggle in their effort to take over the capital city of Kyiv. And Ukrainians persevere despite devastation and ruin in their homeland. 

We'll speak with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin about the new weapons the U.S. is sending Ukraine and the delicate diplomatic dance to arm them. And after President Biden warns Chinese President Xi not to help Russia with their invasion, Chinese Ambassador to the U.S., Qin Gang, will speak with us exclusively. Ukraine's ambassador, Oksana Markarova, will also join us. And we'll have a rare Sunday interview with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. Finally, we'll check in with former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb. It's all just ahead on FACE THE NATION. 

Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. There is no end in sight, no off-ramp for the Russians, and seemingly no serious movement in negotiations for a cease-fire in the now 25-days-long war in Ukraine. As we come on the air, the scenes of death and devastation in the port city of Mariupol are abhorrent, and the city is on the verge of being completely under Russian control. 

We've got a lot to get to today, and we want to begin with the latest news from Ukraine. And we'd like to warn you, some of the images you will see in this broadcast could be disturbing. Charlie D'Agata has been in Ukraine since before the Russians invaded and he reports today from Kyiv. Charlie. 

CHARLIE D'AGATA: Good morning, Margaret. The horrific situation unfolding in Mariupol took an even darker turn this morning. Ukrainian officials have accused Russian forces of bombing a school where hundreds were taking shelter, and now claim residents are being forcibly taken to Russia. 


 CHARLIE D'AGATA (voice over): They lie where they died, so many bodies all over Mariupol. Some buried right on the spot. Drone footage reveals the extraordinary destruction after weeks of relentless bombing, whole neighborhoods in ruins in what human rights groups describe as a catastrophe. 

City council officials say Russian soldiers are forcibly deporting several thousand residents to Russian territory, like this refugee center in the Russian port city of Tagenrolf (ph). 

Resident Leud Milisifka (ph) said they didn't have much choice. The Russian soldiers gave us 10 minutes, saying if you want to live, go. Her husband, Victor (ph), said the whole of Mariupol is gone. There's nothing left alive in there. 

In a late-night address, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy condemned Russia's constant bombardment, saying the terror inflicted on to this peaceful city will be remembered for centuries. Hospitals have been overwhelmed with exhausted medics unable to keep up with the amount of civilian casualties coming through the doors. The civilian death toll is mounting as fighting rages in multiple regions across Ukraine. On the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukrainian troops are stuck in a brutal back and forth battle to keep the Russian offenses at bay. The capital defense systems have intercepted some incoming missiles, but others have struck right in the heart of the city. 

CHARLIE D'AGATA (on camera): Intentionally targeting civilians or not doing enough to protect them constitutes a war crime. And in this residential neighborhood in the capital and other cities, there's plenty of growing evidence. 

CHARLIE D'AGATA (voice over): As Russia has stepped up its air campaign, the Russian defense ministry now claims it fired a second hypersonic missile since the invasion began. With Ukrainian forces having fought Russian troops to a standstill in some areas, a show of force that Russia still holds the upper hand in fire power. 


CHARLIE D'AGATA: With growing international pressure unable to stop the fighting, the Ukrainian government has now urged China to join western countries in condemning what it calls "Russian barbarism." Margaret. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: The United Nations human rights office today said that at least nine hundred and two civilians have been killed in Ukraine, that number is likely much higher. Joining us now is the Secretary of Defense, retired General Lloyd Austin, just back from a trip to Bulgaria and Slovakia. Both NATO allies. Welcome to Face the Nation. Good to have you here in person, sir. 


MARGARET BRENNAN: You just heard the horror-horrific reports of what's happening inside Mariupol. The AP is reporting a school that held hundreds of civilians was deliberately targeted. Can you confirm that?

SEC. AUSTIN: We've seen deliberate targeting of cities and towns and civilians throughout in the last several weeks. And- and again, I believe that he's taking these kinds of steps because as was described earlier his campaign is stalled. He's not been able to achieve the goals as rapidly- that he wants to achieve as rapidly as he wants to achieve them. And so he's- he's resorting to tact-ty-types of tactics that we- we see on display every day. And again, this is- this is really disgusting. But again, my hats off to- my hat off to the Ukrainian people who have fought valiantly and remain determined to defend their country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What you're describing are war crimes. What has been described by one local leader in Mariupol is that there are residents being shipped to camps. Is Russia about to take that city, which would be a strategic victory?

SEC. AUSTIN: Well, hard to say. I mean, they've been- we've seen significant effort on their part to go after this city, go after Kyiv and other cities. They really want to begin to control the pop-population centers, but they haven't taken it yet. And we've seen in the past that Ukrainians have counterattacked, that they've- they've used their initiative to move things around on the battlefield, and they've presented some significant problems for the- for the Russians.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Russia is also saying that it used a hypersonic missile at least twice in Ukraine so far. So this is a missile that travels what more than a mile a minute. It's very difficult to intercept. Is this weaponry game changer?

SEC. AUSTIN: I would not see it as a game changer. I think again, the reason that he's resorting to using these types of weapons is because he's trying to reestablish some momentum. And we've see-, again, we've seen him attack towns and cities and civilians outright. We expect to see that continue. But I don't think that this in and of itself will be a game changer. You kind of question why he would- would do this. Is he running low on precision- precision guided munitions? Does he have like complete confidence in his ability to- the ability of his troops to reestablish momentum? But- but I don't see this in and of itself a game changer. I cannot confirm or dispute whether or not he's used those weapons.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the U.S. assessment that is public is that Russia's got approximately 90 percent of their assembled combat power. So if they've lost 10 percent of combat power in twenty-five days, can they still be effective?

SEC. AUSTIN: Well, it's- they're- they're not being effective today in terms of their- their maneuver forces on the ground are--


SEC. AUSTIN: --essentially stalled. And it's been- it's had the effect of him moving his forces into a wood chipper. You know, the- the Ukrainians have continued to attrit his forces and they-they've been very effective, using the equipment that we provided them, you know, and armor weapons and aircraft weapons. And again, significant resolve on the part of the- of the Ukrainian people.

MARGARET BRENNAN: One of the concerns is that if Vladimir Putin is cornered that he would escalate to de-escalate that he would go and use a weapon of mass destruction. Do you expect to hear more threats about nuclear weapons? Is that a real, viable option for him?

SEC. AUSTIN: I would just say that any threat of the use of a nuclear weapon, any rhetoric concerning a use of a nuclear weapon is very dangerous. And- and so I remain confident in our ability to defend ourselves and our capabilities. But again, I don't think that kind of- that kind of conversation, that kind of rhetoric is helpful. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hmm. But you take it seriously?

SEC. AUSTIN: Absolutely. And- and again, I'm confident in our ability to defend ourselves and defend our allies and partners as well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: One other option for a weapon of mass destruction that the Biden administration has warned about is a chemical or biological weapon. Vladimir Putin gave this chilling speech earlier this week where he claimed the Pentagon was supporting biological programs at dozens of labs in Ukraine, which the Biden administration has just said that's completely false information. China has repeated this as a talking point, though. Would using a weapon of mass destruction like this change the US calculus? Is there a level of catastrophe here where the United States could not sit on the sidelines?

SEC. AUSTIN: I- I think if a chemical or biological weapon was used, you would see- as- a significant reaction from not only the United States, but also the global community. And again, I don't want to speculate about what exactly would change our calculation. I think- I think, you know, engaging in hypotheticals is probably not helpful here, either. But I think this is- this is a very serious step. And as you heard our president say, we won't- we won't take that likely.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And when Vladimir Putin talks about that, you think it becomes more likely?

SEC. AUSTIN: I think what- what we've seen from the Russians in the past is they're raising issues and creating a pretext so that if they did something in the battle space, they could blame it on- on somebody else, either Ukrainians or- or us, NATO. 


SEC. AUSTIN: And this could possibly- possibly be- be what we- what we're seeing today.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Secretary of State Blinken has said private mercenaries are being mobilized to move into Russia or to move into Ukraine by Russia. Are you seeing Russia send in reinforcements?

SEC. AUSTIN: We've heard them. We've heard about it from a number of sources that this is in fact going on. We've not seen mercenaries show up on the battlefield, to my knowledge. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: and no reinforcements yet from foreign sources.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Moscow is blasting the United States for pouring in weapons, you talked about all the things that are game changers, you say the anti-tank, the stingers, the eight hundred million that the president authorized and secretary of state signed off on. When does that equipment begin to arrive? And what makes the most difference in terms of what we are providing Ukraine?

SEC. AUSTIN: We've been providing this type of equipment throughout, and this enables us to provide more. In the last two weeks, we've provided over $300 million worth of equipment to Ukraine and the $800 million that the – that the the president signed off on here just recently brings a total to over to $2 billion in terms of the amount of security force assistance that we've been providing to Ukraine. I would remind you that we've had trainers there since 2014, along with some of our other allies. And not only have we provided them equipment, but they were ready to use that equipment once we provided. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Equipment that the Ukrainians say they want are to help close the skies, essentially. These S-300 systems, the Russian-made systems that are in Eastern Europe right now, how quickly can you get that into the hands of the Ukrainians?

If we if we can get it in, if our allies or partners do have this type of equipment available – 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Slovakia says they're ready to go. 

SEC. AUSTIN – they're ready to go. And so what we'll do is we'll continue to work with them and continue to work with other allies and partners to not only create the conditions to provide that kind of assistance, but also, you know, work to ensure that they have the ability to to protect their skies going forward as well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, we will watch your trip to Europe again. Mr. Secretary, thank you for your time.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Face theNation, we'll be back in a minute. Stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Following their call on Friday, the White House said that President Biden had made it clear to President Xi what the consequences would be if China provides material support to Russia. Joining us now is China's ambassador to the United States, Qin Gang. Mr. Ambassador, good to see you. Good morning to you. 


MARGARET BRENNAN: So, President Biden asked Beijing not to provide any kind of support to Russia. Is it your intent to go ahead and give a lifeline to Vladimir Putin? 

QIN GANG: On Friday, President Xi Jinping and President Biden had a video call. It was candid, deep, and constructive. President Xi Jinping gave China's position very clear, that is, China stands for peace, opposes war. China is a peace-loving country. We hate to see the situation over Ukraine come to -- to days, you know, like this. And we call for immediate cease- fire. And we are promoting peace talks. And we are sending humanitarian assistance to -- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Would you send money and weapons to Russia, though? 

QIN GANG: Well, there's a disinformation about China providing military assistance to Russia. We reject that. And what -- what China -- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You won't do so? Beijing will not? 

QIN GANG: What China is doing is send food, medicine, sleeping bags, and baby formula, not weapons and ammunition to any party. And we are against a war, as I said. You know, we will do everything to de-escalate the crisis. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Russia's foreign minister said yesterday that Moscow and Beijing will only get closer because of what is happening. Is he right? 

QIN GANG: Well, China and Russia has a trust relations. It was built over many years. It was built on many issues. You know, we have a long-shared borders. As long as over 4,000 kilometers. 


QIN GANG: And we have a lot of common interests. And this trust relationship with Russia gave us a unique position in the national efforts for peace talks and now -- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's exactly -- and that's exactly what the White House is saying, that you are in such a position of power here to pick up the phone and call Vladimir Putin. 

QIN GANG: Yes, that is -- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Has Xi Jinping, your president, told Vladimir Putin to stop the invasion? Do you condemn it? 

QIN GANG: Actually, on the second day of Russia's military operation, President Xi Jinping did talk to President Putin -- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Was that their last phone call? 

QIN GANG: Asking President Putin to think about resuming peace talks with Ukraine. And President Putin listened to it, and we have seen four rounds of peace talks, you know, have happened. Let me continue. You know, China's trusted relations with Russia is not a liability. Actually, it's an asset in the international efforts to solve the crisis in a peaceful way, you know. And the China is part of the solution. It's not part of the problem. If you -- if you -- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, are you saying, though, just so we're clear, are you saying Beijing will not provide financial support to Moscow to prolong this war? 

QIN GANG: Well, China has normal trade, economic, financial, energy, corporations with Russia. As I said just now, this has been built. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So it's not changing? You're not changing your relationship? 

QIN GANG: These are the normal -- normal business between our two sovereign countries -- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You mentioned -- 

QIN GANG: Based on international order -- laws, including WTO rules. And, you know -- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Let's talk about these international laws, because four days ago the International Court of Justice ordered Russia to stop its military actions. China abstained from that. The vote was 13-2. The only country that stood next to Russia was China. 

QIN GANG: Well -- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: That sounds like you are condoning and not condemning. 

QIN GANG: China makes its observations and conclusions based -- independently, based on the merits of the matter itself. On the one hand, we uphold -- we uphold -- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: The United Nations secretary general said that Russia invaded. 

QIN GANG: Yes, we upholds -- on the one hand, China upholds the U.N. purposes and the principles, including the respect for national sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, including Ukraine. 


QIN GANG: On the other hand, we do see there's a complexity in the history of the Ukraine issue. And we -- we -- we are -- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Would you be concerned -- would you be concerned if Russia amassed more than 150,000 troops at China's border? 

QIN GANG: Well, that's why we want to have a good --

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, just to be clear, because China, you would – you would -- 

QIN GANG: Good, friendly, neighborly relations with Russia. And what -- what -- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you would recognize that's not good, friendly, neighborly -- 

QIN GANG: But what is -- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Relations to put 150,000 troops on the border of a neighboring country and then to send those troops into that country. 

QIN GANG: Well -- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: In those circumstances, why can't you condemn this has an invasion? 

QIN GANG: Well, let's -- don't be naive. Condemnation -- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: It sounds naive to say that's not an invasion, it's a -- 

QIN GANG: It doesn't -- it doesn't solve the problem. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: A hundred thousand troops in a county. 

QIN GANG: You know, I will be surprised if Russia will back down by condemnation. What is urgently needed -- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, will they back down if your president asks Vladimir Putin to back down? 


MARGARET BRENNAN: Will your president ask Vladimir Putin to back down? 

QIN GANG: We have done so. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: They rely on you. 

QIN GANG: And we will continue to promote peace talks and, you know, urge immediate fire. And, you know, condemnation, you know, only doesn't help. We need wisdom. We need wisdom. We need courage. And we need good diplomacy. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he would like to meet with Vladimir Putin. Volodymyr Zelenskyy is in a bunker. Vladimir Putin is at a political pro-war rally right now. You can't have diplomacy when it is one country -- only one country willing to actually negotiate. 

QIN GANG: China has good relations with Russia, has good relations with Ukraine. And the China keeps close communications with the United States and with Europe. 


QIN GANG: They enable China to reach to all parties' concerns in a crisis. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: The global -- 

QIN GANG: So, China's unique role, you know, can help the peaceful sentiment of the crisis. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So tell me how -- tell me then because I keep hearing you say that. I want to understand how China is helping. If you are not condemning, if you are not cutting off Vladimir Putin from continuing this war, this war that is roiling the entire global economy, sending food prices and energy prices spiking, if China wants stability, why not cut off Vladimir Putin? 

QIN GANG: Well, we -- we have already made it very clear that, you know, national sovereignty, and territorial integrity of all countries, including Ukraine, should be respected and protected. 


QIN GANG: But as I said, condemnation only cannot work. What we need is good diplomacy based on reason, wisdom and the courage. And looking ahead - 

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask -- 

QIN GANG: The enduring approach to the security issue in Europe is -- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to talk to you about one quick thing before -- before we run out of time. You talked about how important the U.N. is and what respect you have for it. So, a U.N. human rights panel said there are credible reports that a million Uighurs are in a massive internment camp shrouded in secrecy. And the high commissioner for refugees and human rights will go to China soon. Will you give them unlimited access? 

QIN GANG: I totally reject that. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes, you will give access or no you won't give access? 

QIN GANG: There's no such -- such a so-called human rights violation in Xinjiang -- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you will give access? 

QIN GANG: So -- well, we are in talks with the human rights special commissioner of the -- 


QIN GANG: And as far as I understand, there's an agreement. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK. All right, we've got to go. All right, thank you very much, Ambassador. We'll be right back. 

QIN GANG: Thank you for having me. 


MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be back with a lot more FACE THE NATION. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is standing by. Stay with us. 


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to Face the Nation, we turn now to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who joins us from Louisville, Kentucky, this morning. Good morning to you, sir. Welcome to Face the Nation. 


MARGARET BRENNAN: President Biden heads to Europe this week to meet with NATO allies. You helped give him about 13 billion in urgent support along with the rest of Congress. What do you expect the president to deliver this week?

SEN. MCCONNELL: Well, we've given him plenty of money. I think he needs to step up his game. He's generally done the right thing, but never soon enough. Mean, let's take a look at what's happened here. The Ukrainians have killed more Russians in three weeks than we lost in Afghanistan and Iraq in 20 years. I think we ought to go into this believing the Ukrainians can actually win. And the way they win is for us to get these defensive weapons system to them as rapidly as possible. For example, I am perplexed as to why we couldn't get the Polish Russian MiGs into the country. Now, the Ukrainians have plenty of pilots who know how to fly them. 


SEN. MCCONNELL: In those Eastern Bloc countries, they have Soviet ground to air systems that the Ukrainians know how to work. We have the resources we give-given to the president to get those weapons in there as rapidly as possible. 


SEN. MCCONNELL: And then we provided loan guarantees to the countries that ship the weapons into Ukraine to purchase new weapons and probably better weapons from us. So what I'd like to see the president do is to reassure our Eastern Bloc allies. It's fine to go to Brussels. It's fine to go to Berlin, and I'd like to see him go to Romania or Poland--


SEN. MCCONNELL:  --or to the Baltics. They're right on the front lines-- 


SEN. MCCONNELL: --and need to know that we're in this fight with them to win.

MARGARET BRENNAN: There aren't a lot of policy differences here, really, other- I mean, you agree with the president that there should not be a no-fly zone. There's a matter of a few dozen MiG fighter jets there, but I don't hear a lot of policy differences from Republicans. In your view, does the 13 billion that you all just authorized ensure the funding of a Ukrainian insurgency if the government were to fall? Like how long does this money last for?

SEN. MCCONNELL: Well, if they need more, we ought to give them more. Look, what- this is a way to have a no fly zone in effect, to have these weapons systems ground to air weapon systems give them a fighting chance to control the air, to shoot down planes and others that are seeking to control the air. Without the US having a no fly zone that has our own pilots in there. So, I think the weapons systems are available. Look, I think we need to change our attitude here. The Ukrainians could actually win this thing-- 


SEN. MCCONNELL: --and that's what- the attitude we ought to have that we're in it to help them win.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You are very clear in your language there, but others in your party have not been. Congresswoman Liz Cheney has said there's actually a Putin wing of the Republican Party these days. Think she's referring to Congressman Cawthorn, who called Zelenskyy a thug? Marjorie Taylor Greene said the U.S. should not fund a war the Ukrainians cannot possibly win. Is there any room in the Republican Party for this rhetoric and why isn't there more discipline?

SEN. MCCONNELL: Well, there's some lonely voices out there that are in a different place, but looking at Senate Republicans, I can tell you that I would have had I been the Majority Leader put this Ukraine supplemental up by itself. I think virtually every one of my members would have voted for it. The vast majority of the Republican Party writ large, both in the Congress and across the country, are totally behind the Ukrainians and urging the president to do- take these steps quicker. Yeah, to be bolder. So, there may be a few lonely voices off the side. I wouldn't pay much attention to them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about what is about to get underway this week. You've said President Biden's nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Brown Jackson, is very intelligent, clearly qualified and highly likely to be confirmed. You personally have voted against her before. Are you inclined to vote for her this time?

SEN. MCCONNELL: You know, we had a very good conversation in my office and I asked her, you know, typically the Supreme Court nominees of both parties have never answered the questions. What they typically say is that something that might come before me, and I don't want to prejudge how I might actually vote, but I ask her to defend the court. Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Breyer both publicly opposed court packing that is--


SEN. MCCONNELL: --trying to increase the number of court- court members in order to get an outcome you like, that would have been an easy thing for her to do to defend the integrity of the court. She wouldn't do that. So, in the meantime, the committee will ask her all the tough questions. I haven't made a final decision as to how I'm going to vote.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You haven't made a final decision, but you're open to be persuaded? I mean, this is a historic nominee.

SEN. MCCONNELL: I'm going to listen to the evidence. I'm going to listen to the hearings. And by the way, she'll be treated much better than Democrats typically treated Republican nominees like Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh. It will be a respectful, deep-dive into her record, which I think is entirely appropriate for a lifetime appointment.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mmhmm. So you are open to voting for her then? OK, we'll see.

SEN. MCCONNELL: I'm willing to listen to the testimony. That's why we have hearings.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK, I want to ask you as well about COVID aid. Dr. Fauci on another network this morning said Congress needs to authorize spending to continue to build up our supply of antivirals of tests and give the ability to provide booster shots. Republicans haven't been on board with this idea of more COVID aid. Dr. Fauci says we need it. Are you afraid of an empty arsenal?

SEN. MCCONNELL: Well, last year, the Congress passed a two trillion dollar package, allegedly for COVID and passed on an entirely partisan basis. Much of that money is yet to be spent. We're willing to listen to the case that we need to spend more money on COVID, but they ought to reprogram some of this massive amount that was spent last year that's not out the door yet. So let's take a look at how to pay for it, and then we'll be happy to decide whether or not to support it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Minority Leader McConnell, thank you very much for your time today. We'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now once again to Ukraine's ambassador to the U.S., Oksana Markarova. Madam Ambassador, thank you for coming back. I want to ask you about these horrific reports out of Mariupol. A local government official there said that the Russian military is moving people into camps and moving them out of the country. Do you have any insight into what is happening on the ground?

UKRAINIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES OKSANA MARKAROVA: We're hearing all these horrific reports about targeting the school, the art school with four hundred people hiding in the basement, about, you know, retirement home in the Crimean there and elsewhere, where more than 50 people died from from shelling. And what happens in Mariupol is- is an epitome of war crime. I mean, encircled city without food, without anything for 13 days, 14 hour days putting a resistance. And instead of simply opening humanitarian corridors as we agreed and letting people out and getting supplies in, Russians are just trying to take the city down. So, and people in the city continues to fight. So all our hearts go out to them and we're trying to do everything possible on the diplomatic front and elsewhere, to- to help the people of Mariupol.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Does the government have any idea exactly where these people are being moved? I mean that the reference to camps was compared to World War Two, when Nazis forcibly moved people into other countries.

AMB. MARKAROVA: Well, we saw it in, again. I don't want to- to say any information that we don't have the exact proof. I mean, we hear all the reports and have it, but we saw it also in the cities, smaller cities that were taken or occupied by Russians where they would let people outside of the prison. They would try to either call- catch our mayors and imprison them, cage the activists and imprison them. So that's an M.O.of these war criminals and we see the protest in all the cities, you know, even in the cities like on a daily basis today and Kherson and others. People are coming out with protest against Russians, not only the armed forces, not only the police, but ordinary people. Everyone want them to go- to go home.

MARGARET BRENNAN: This week, your president made an emotional speech to Congress. Congress authorized $13 billion in emergency support to Ukraine. But one of the things your president said was a personal appeal to President Biden, to be leader of the nation of this great nation, but also to be leader of the world. President Biden goes to NATO this week. How do you want him to lead the world? What is the U.S. not doing still?

AMB. MARKAROVA: Well, we've seen exceptional leadership from the U.S. during the past three weeks, and deterring Putin before the war, trying and helping us a lot during the first weeks of- of- of this war. Now we all have to understand that even though we all are united in this effort in helping Ukraine, Putin is not changing his behavior. It's quite different. He's actually turning into- to terror and doing what the war criminals do, not- not what the armed forces are doing. So, it's a clear message to all the civilized world that we have to step up too. Ukrainians will not give up. We will continue defending our homes. We don't have any other choice. And I think it's- it's- it's time that every passing day is a chance to stop this war, and every passing day we have to be discussed and all of us together, the civilized world, the United States, NATO countries, but also others like China, discuss what is- what is more, we can do to stop it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Ukraine's constitution references joining NATO, but your president has said even just a few days ago that Ukrainians must admit the West has indicated Ukraine won't be a member of NATO. Is he signaling room for more of a diplomatic opening there? I just keep hearing that the diplomacy goes nowhere.

AMB. MARKAROVA: Well, look, let me be very undiplomatic here. So, when murderous maniac catches somebody who attacks somebody on the streets of the city, do we ask a person, a victim, you know, what is it you are ready to give up? Leg?, Arm to stay alive? What is it that you are ready to- to give up in order to- to be alive? No, we call the police. We stop this and then we discuss what can we do to punish the criminal and help the victim? So I think this is- this is where we are right now. We are fighting, heroically, our armed forces and people to defend our home. Now, of course, from the day one, our president said we would like this to stop. We are ready to negotiate. Negotiate does not mean to surrender. We are not ready to give up on either our dreams or on the territorial sovereignty or integrity. But we are ready to negotiate even with the brutal enemy in order to stop it. And we are asking all of our friends and allies to help us to A: fight successfully, but also to put all the pressure so that Russia negotiates.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Secretary of State Blinken said this week that a simple withdrawal of troops by Russia won't meet the U.S. standard for lifting sanctions. Something more irreversible needs to have- happen here. What is he laying out here? What is the Ukrainian vision?

AMB. MARKAROVA: Well, I will- I will let Secretary Blinken to- to- to say what he said, but for us, clearly, I mean, it's a brutal attack. We've lost people. Many of our cities are destroyed and still had been destroyed. We've lost 60 universities completely. I mean, they're erased from there. So, we need this to stop. They need to stop and get out from- from- from- from Ukraine. But we also need to be talking about reparations, about the security guarantees and everything else. We need to know that this attack, which I want to remind, is not the first attack. Russia attacked us in 2014. Russia attacked us in 1918. So we know that the goal that Russia has in this now, as it used to have in the past, is to destroy Ukraine.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Ambassador, thank you for your time as always. we'll be back in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to another issue of increasing concern, that of the rising number of Covid cases, particularly in China and Europe. Our Liz Palmer reports from London. 


ELIZABETH PALMER (voice over): Hong Kong is building vast isolation hospitals to house Covid patients. It's shut down businesses, beaches, and public transport. But even so, currently has the highest Covid mortality rates on earth, due largely to unvaccinated old people. Right next door, mainland China is fighting to stave off disaster. It kept Covid largely at bay for more than two years, with draconian lockdowns, electronic monitoring and mandatory testing. But now omicron has taken hold. China has just reported its first deaths in more than a year, along with almost 2,000 new cases. Thirty-seven million Chinese are currently under lockdown. And about 50 percent of people over 80, 17 million of them, have not been fully vaccinated. Europe, too, has seen a surge in infection. The week Britain dropped all Covid restrictions, even tests for arriving travelers, U.K. hospital wards began to fill up. 

WOMAN: We started to see an increase in our patients who need to be admitted and treated for coronavirus. 

ELIZABETH PALMER: The good news is, the death rate hasn't gone up and the surge does seem to have peaked. And, finally, heroism in Kharkiv, Ukraine, where in spite of the war, doctors kept on treating their Covid patients and set up a bomb shelter in the basement just in case. 


ELIZABETH PALMER: It's now just over two years since the WHO declared Covid a pandemic, and this week they reminded us that in their estimation we're only about halfway through. Margaret. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Elizabeth Palmer in London, thank you. We're joined now by former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb. He's also a Pfizer board member, and he joins us from Westport, Connecticut. Good morning to you, Doctor. I even tripped up on your name. My goodness, I haven't seen you in a few weeks, and now I just need to get your perspective on what BA.2 this new variant means. Should we be concerned about a wave?

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, look, I don't think we're going to see a big wave of infection, but we're going to see some uptick from where we are right now. Right now, we're at very low levels of infection. We have nine cases per 100,000 people per day. Those are levels that we haven't seen since last June. There are about 20,000 people thousand currently hospitalized. And I think we're going to continue to see low levels of infection through the summer. But before we get there, we're probably going to see some tick-up of infection like the Europeans are seeing right now, maybe not as pronounced. And there are indications that the U.K. is already peaking, but some increase in infections. And that's a result of BA.2, which is probably 30 to 50 percent more transmissible than- than the Omicron variant that became prevalent here. As well as the lifting of mitigation, people are going out more, they're interacting more and some declining immunity from people who are boosted a long time ago or infected a long time ago. We're relying on that immunity, that immunity isn't as pronounced right now, so we are going to see an increase in infection. I think this is going to be a real test of whether or not we're able to live some semblance of normalcy and not reach back to the kind of mitigation that we've relied on in the past. And I don't think we'll be doing that while still protecting the vulnerable. And so far right now, I don't know that we're taking all the steps we need to be taking to protect vulnerable people to weather this bump and potentially another surge heading into next fall.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You said if you were vaccinated a long time ago. Mr. Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer, was on this program last week and said immunity starts to wane four months after your injection. A lot of us are right there right now. How long do we wait to get a booster? You know, another dose hasn't been authorized for wide use yet.

GOTTLIEB: Yeah, look, the data that's coming out shows that the protection from the vaccine, particularly three doses of the vaccine, but even two doses of the vaccine is substantial and durable if you're talking about protection against severe disease and hospitalization. And there's been some recent studies really supporting this. But in terms of protection from symptomatic disease and from infection, that does start to wane more immediately because that's dependent upon circulating antibodies, which after a period of time start to decline and aren't as prominent in your blood. I think this is really a six month vaccine in terms of providing really meaningful protection against symptomatic disease and infection. And this is likely to become an annualized vaccine for the majority of Americans. I think for those who are vulnerable, you should think about getting a shot every six months while we're in a high-prevalent environment and in fact, the shots are authorized for that use. For people who are immunocompromised, there is authorization right now for a fourth booster.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Pfizer has applied for a booster for people 65 and over, Moderna more widely. So do generally healthy adults need to get this too or just the immunocompromised?

GOTTLIEB: Yeah, I think it also depends on what the environment is. If we're in a low-prevalent environment, as we're likely to be this summer, I think most Americans who had three doses of vaccine will have sufficient protection going through the summer. We don't, after all, get a flu vaccine in the summertime, even though the flu vaccine only affords about six months of protection, because the flu season only lasts about six months through the fall in the winter, so you don't worry about contracting a respiratory pathogen in the summertime. And I think the risk is going to be pretty low this summer. I think after we have this bump in infection, we're gonna get down to low levels. Heading into the fall, I suspect a lot of Americans will want to get another vaccine. You know, some people are going to call it a fourth booster. I think it's heading towards this vaccine becoming an annualized vaccine, at least for the foreseeable future, until we really understand the epidemiology of this disease and understand whether this coronavirus starts to recede into the background, like the four circulating strains of coronavirus that we've become accustomed to have.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But I mean, you've talked about this for so long that the risk of becoming this bifurcated society where it's those who can go out and those who are compromised or worried about infecting family members. I have small children under five who are not vaccinated, so I would put myself in that category. But now there's this. There's a cost because all the health restrictions are out, so you are choosing to isolate yourself if you are taking health restrictions. What is a health like the average person? What should they do should they still be wearing masks?

GOTTLIEB: Look, I think if you're vulnerable, if you're someone who is very vulnerable to this infection in a high prevalence and prevalence environment or in an environment, if you're going into a setting that's high risk, a confined space indoors, there are things you can do to protect yourself in that setting. One way masking does work even if everyone else isn't wearing a mask. If you're wearing a high quality mask, you're going to get a good degree of protection from that. A lot of people continue to wear masks. There's also a lot of therapeutics available now more than we had better tools than we had earlier in this pandemic. I think understanding how you can get access to those is important.

BRENNAN: Dr. Gottlieb, thank you for your time today. We'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Images from the war in Ukraine continue to dominate hearts and minds around the world. One that's gotten increasingly familiar is that of a defiant and besieged president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, encouraging Ukrainians, lobbying for help, and pleading with Putin to stop. 

Last week, Zelenskyy took his message to Canada, to the U.S. Congress, and plans to address the people of Israel today. Saturday, he spoke to Switzerland, a country that stayed neutral in World War II, but was one of the first to condemn the Russian invasion and express support for Ukraine. 

Translated in English, he said, it is impossible to stay away from the fact that in the 21st century, in the heart of Europe, hundreds of rockets and bombs are flying at peaceful cities. It is impossible to stay away when the army of the world's largest state, albeit only in size, directs all its deadly potential to destroy us, to destroy hospitals, ordinary schools, churches, universities, maternity hospitals, residential areas. It is impossible to be indifferent when children are killed. 

The role of a journalist is to find facts and report the truth, and above all stay fair and neutral. But much like Switzerland, we find ourselves agreeing with Volodymyr Zelenskyy, that some facts are so horrific that equivalency is both false and morally wrong. Above all else, it is most important to be truthful. 

For FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan in Washington.

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