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H.R. McMaster on U.S. handling of Ukraine crisis - "The Takeout"

H.R. McMaster on "The Takeout"
Former national security adviser H.R. McMaster on "The Takeout" — 3/18/2022 46:28

This week, CBS News foreign policy and national security contributor H.R. McMaster joins CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett to discuss the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

McMaster, who served as national security adviser to former president Donald Trump, said that whatever actions the U.S. would take if there were millions of deaths, "we should do it right now." He added that U.S. officials need to stop talking about a potential World War III because it plays into Russian leader Vladimir Putin's playbook.

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McMaster said his advice to U.S. leadership now would be, "If you're not going to do it, just don't talk about it." He faulted rhetoric from the U.S. and its allies that disclosed what they would not do, which McMaster said  "inadvertently greenlighted what Putin is doing now." In essence, he told Garrett, the U.S. has assured Putin there will not be a no-fly zone, that U.S. forces will not enter the war, and that the U.S. will not continue diplomatic activities in Ukraine.  


  • Should the U.S. do more to stop Russia's aggression? "It's time to pull out all the stops, right? I think we ought to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, because that's what they're doing, and I think Vladimir Putin is a pariah… [Putin] is committing mass murder of innocent people everyday… we can cry about it, you know, we can be sad about it, but we have to actually do something about it."

  • Potential for World War III: "This is what Putin's trying to do, right? You know, he pulled out his nuclear saber… And rattled it. And the reason that that Putin did this is because, you know, it's been part of their doctrine to do it, because this is a way that Putin thinks he can accomplish his objectives below the threshold of what might elicit a concerted response from the United States, from the European Union, from NATO, from the free world. And I think that what we have to do is is we have to not allow him to threaten the use of nuclear weapons so he can continue to commit mass murder in Ukraine… Whenever we say… World War Three, we buy into his narrative. And this is the narrative that is associated with this, his doctrine of escalation, domination."

  • Zelenskyy's address to Congress: "I think he is emerging, as, you know, the galvanizing figure of our age… We've been in denial about geopolitics… we took a holiday from history is what we did, and you know, history, geopolitics is coming back with a vengeance right now."

  • No-fly zone over Ukraine: "Probably everybody agrees that there should be one. But, of course, any action you take in war is not without risk, right? Because war is interactive and your enemy has a say in what happens next. But what I would say, Major, is like, how many deaths are we willing to just watch? …and the estimates now are that, you know, heck, there could be a million deaths. There could be 10 million refugees…So I just think whatever we're going to do when there are 1 million deaths, we should do right now."

  • No-fly zone over Ukraine: "Why are we talking about what we're not going to do? …If you're not going to do it, just don't talk about it. And so I think what's happened is some of what the Biden administration has done before the invasion and up to now has almost inadvertently greenlighted what Putin is doing because now he's assured, okay, well, yeah, of course you're not going to do a no-fly zone. They're not going to challenge the Black Sea. Right? And they're not going to reduce their own troops. They're not going to keep their advisors there… I mean, one of the things that bothers the heck out of me, you know, Majors, is that, you know, we run away from these conflicts, right? I mean, you know, why did we evacuate everybody from Kyiv? Why do we do that? Right? We just saw three courageous leaders of European nations take a train to Kyiv. But we evacuated all of our people. And as Churchill said, after Dunkirk, hey you know, it's great for us to high five each other, but evacuations don't win wars, right? And so, I think we should have created more dilemmas for Putin and stopped cataloging all the things we're not going to do."

  • Evolving relationship between Russia and China: "We need to hang this —Ukraine — around the neck of the Chinese Communist Party because, you know, they helped facilitate it. And anybody who doubts it, look at what they're saying right now… The Chinese Communist Party is propagating some of these, you know, conspiracy theories, these untruths about your biological weapons, you know, developed by the Ukrainians and the United States…Any site in China that calls it a war, it gets taken down. And think about the 5,000-word statement that Xi Jinping and Putin released right before the Olympics…They're each other's BFFs… And they also talked about a new era of international relations. You know what that means is hey, the United States is over. The West is done. Europe is done… We need to stop underwriting our own demise by continuing normal relations with the Chinese Communist Party."

Executive producer: Arden Farhi

Producers: Jamie Benson, Jacob Rosen, Sara Cook and Eleanor Watson

CBSN Production: Eric Soussanin 
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Twitter: @TakeoutPodcast
Instagram: @TakeoutPodcast

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