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Secretary Blinken answers: Would anyone in Russia stop Putin if he wanted to use nukes?

Antony Blinken: The 2022 60 Minutes Interview
Secretary of State Antony Blinken: The 2022 60 Minutes Interview 13:06

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told 60 Minutes the Kremlin has a nuclear "chain of command" but it's uncertain whether anyone would tell Russian President Vladimir Putin "no" if he decides to launch a nuclear weapon. 

"And that is the Achilles heel of autocracies anywhere," the secretary of state said. "…There is usually not anyone who has the capacity or the will to speak truth to power. And part of the reason, I think, Russia has gotten itself into the mess that it's in is because there is no one in the system to effectively tell Putin he's doing the wrong thing."

Putin drafted 300,000 reservists and threatened nuclear war last Wednesday, and emphasized, "this is not a bluff." In an address to his people, Putin told his people that the West is bent on destroying the Russian homeland.

Blinken said Putin's rhetoric is "irresponsible" and added that the U.S. expressed their concerns to Russia about its threats.

"We're focused on making sure that we're all acting responsibly, especially when it comes to this kind of loose rhetoric," Blinken told Pelley. "We have been very clear with the Russians publicly and, as well as, privately to stop the loose talk about nuclear weapons."

"Privately, the United States has been in communication with the Kremlin about these threats of nuclear war?" Pelley asked.

"Yes," Blinken said. "It's very important that Moscow hear from us and know from us that the consequences would be horrific. And we've made that very clear."

"You call the nuclear talk 'loose talk,'" Pelley said, "But isn't Vladimir Putin telling us what he's going to do if he is backed any further into a corner?"

"Vladimir Putin has a clear way out of the war he started and that's to end it," Blinken said. "If Russia stops fighting, the war ends. If Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine ends."

As President Biden did in his 60 Minutes interview last week, Blinken declined to share specifics on how the U.S. would respond to the use of nuclear weapons. He did say, though, the administration had a plan.

"Is it a plan that would prevent World War III?" Pelley asked.

"President Biden has been determined that as we're doing everything we can to help the Ukrainians defend themselves, as we're doing everything we can to rally other countries to put pressure on Russia, we're also determined that this war not expand, not get broader," Blinken explained.

Meanwhile, a U.N. commission found evidence of rape and torture of children in Russian-occupied Ukraine. Blinken said he saw very clear evidence of war crimes first-hand when he visited Ukraine a couple weeks ago.

"One of the places I visited was a city called Irpin," Blinken said. "And I saw residential buildings, building block after building block, totally bombed out. Wherever the Russian tide recedes, what's left in its wake is very clear evidence of atrocities and war crimes."

"We're doing everything we can to support those who are trying to compile the evidence. And to investigate. And ultimately, to prosecute those responsible," Blinken said.

Last Thursday, when atrocities in Ukraine were laid out before the U.N. Security Council, the Russian foreign minister said they were staged and claimed Russia was a victim. Blinken responded to Lavrov's claims in Pelley's interview.

"This is 'Alice in Wonderland.' It's the world upside down. Up is down, white is black-- truth is false," Blinken said. "All of these words, all of these words ring totally hollow to every member on the Security Council… So this spewing of words is not having an effect. On the contrary, I think it just shows the total disconnect between Russia and virtually the entirety of the rest of the world."

Blinken said the "elections" to force areas of Ukraine into the Russian Federation are a sham and would never be recognized. He also said there were no meaningful negotiations currently with Russia to bring about the end of the war in Ukraine.

"There are no talks because Russia has not demonstrated any willingness in this moment to engage in meaningful discussions," Blinken said. "If and when that changes, we will do everything we can to support a diplomatic process."

To Blinken, Putin's war in Ukraine has failed.

"What he said very clearly from the start is, his objective was to erase Ukraine's identity as an independent country, that has already failed," Blinken said. "Ukrainians are fighting for their own land. They're fighting for their own country. The Russians are not. And these Russian soldiers who are being thrown into this conflict, often not knowing where they're going or what they're doing-- this is not something that they want to be fighting for. The Ukrainians are fighting for their own future. They're fighting for their own land. They're fighting for their own lives."

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