QUESTION: Secretary Blinken, thanks for coming on again tonight. We heard the President list these new sanctions today against several Russian banks, among other steps being taken. The President also said direct sanctions against Vladimir Putin, himself, are still on the table here. You’ve got Putin invading Ukraine from the north, the east, the south, ignoring all calls from the U.S. to stop. So why is the U.S. not sanctioning him right now?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first of all, David, the sanctions that we’ve taken – not just us, in coordination with European partners and allies – are going to have severe consequences on Russia – some immediate, some that play out over time. We’ve taken the 10 largest financial institutions, holding about 80 percent of Russia’s banking assets; can’t do transactions in dollars or for the most part in Euros. The ability for Russia to raise money on international market – we’re taking that away. Their ability to import the technology necessary to modernize their economy, to put into critical industries like defense, like aerospace – that too being taken away. And this is going to have a very significant impact.
Now, having said that, as the President said, other things remain on the table. If they continue to escalate, we’ll have the ability to do the same thing.
QUESTION: Is there any sign here, though, that Putin cares about these sanctions? The threats don’t appear to be working so far.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Sanctions have an immediate impact. We’re seeing that in terms of Russia’s currency, in terms of its markets. But the impact is really felt over time as, again, it spreads across the economy, about their ability to raise money, to conduct transactions around the world. That will be felt more and more and more over time. So, if this continues, the pain will continue, the pain will grow, and that’s going to have an effect too.
QUESTION: But to be clear here, you are willing to sanction Putin directly, if you have to.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: As the President said, everything’s on the table, including that.
QUESTION: I want to ask you about the fighting we know that’s taking place at a military airfield about 20 miles from the capital of Kyiv. Do we know who is in control of that airfield tonight? And is it possible Kyiv falls in the next 24 hours?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I’m not in a position to comment on exactly what’s going on, on the ground, at this moment. But what we do know, and part of the Russian plan has been, to put Kyiv in danger, to assault the capital, to go after other major cities. We’re seeing forces come in from the north, from the east, from the south, and that’s all part of the plan that we’ve laid out for the world in recent weeks.
QUESTION: You’re convinced Putin’s going to overthrow this government.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I’m convinced he’s going to try to do that.
QUESTION: We’ve seen Ukrainians fight back, the resistance to the Russians in the east. Is there any chance the Ukrainians can hold on here?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: One of the things that Vladimir Putin has done, starting back in 2014 when they first went into Ukraine, seizing Crimea, seizing a part of eastern Ukraine, is to totally alienate the Ukrainian people from Russia. Before 2014, actually, Russia was pretty popular in Ukraine. It had a 70 percent favorability rating. Right now, it’s exactly the opposite – more than the opposite. Ninety percent of Ukrainians now, if I can use the word, “detest” Russia and certainly detest President Putin. My prediction would be that one way or another, they will strongly resist any effort to take away their sovereignty, take away their independence, take away their government.
QUESTION: They’ll resist, but can they beat the Russians here?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Over – whether it’s in the near term, whether it’s in the medium term, whether it’s in the long term, I am convinced that democracy and the independence of Ukraine is going to prevail.
QUESTION: Secretary Blinken, I know you know there are a lot of people watching tonight, likely wondering could Vladimir Putin go further here. The President was asked today what if this goes beyond Ukraine, and he said if Putin moves into NATO countries, “we will be involved.” He said, “We will be involved.” Is this a possibility?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Is it a possibility that Putin goes beyond Ukraine? Sure, it’s a possibility, but there’s something very powerful standing in the way of that. That’s something we call Article 5 of NATO. That means an attack on one member of NATO is an attack on all members of NATO. The President’s been very clear that we will defend every inch of NATO territory. I think that’s the most powerful deterrent against President Putin going beyond Ukraine.
QUESTION: You know the President has said all along U.S. troops will not fight in Ukraine against the Russians, but again, this hypothetical – if he goes beyond Ukraine and into NATO – given what you just cited, that means all bets are off the table here.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, it’s not a question of all bets being off the table. It’s being very clear that we are committed to Article 5. We’re committed to defending our NATO Allies; and if it comes to that, we’ll do it. But right now, our focus is on Ukraine, our focus is on trying to prevent President Putin from going even further, but it looks like he’s going for everything he can get. And so, we’re doing what we said we would do all along. We’re imposing massive costs. We’re doing it with allies and partners. We’re doing it together. We’re doing it swiftly. And you’ve seen that already today.
QUESTION: Secretary Blinken, we do appreciate your time again tonight. Thank you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks, David. It’s good to be with you.