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Obama Signs Order For Russia Sanctions; Kerry: "Crimea Is Part Of Ukraine"; U.S. And Russia Make Military Moves; Interview with Samantha Power

Aired March 6, 2014 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Jake, thank you. Happening now --


BLITZER (voice-over): Crisis in Ukraine. New video of clashes between pro and anti-Russia crowds. Some people being thrown off a roof. If violent passions are running this high, how can diplomacy succeed?

On Putin's payroll, how U.S. lobbyists and public relations firms are cashing in big time by selling Russia's message?

And I'll ask the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, does the international community have the will to roll back the Russian move into Crimea?


BLITZER (on-camera): She'll join us live this hour.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Shocking new images of violent confrontations in Ukraine as Ukranian forces chase pro-russian intruders out of a base. Can a new diplomatic push succeed, but hatred right now appears to be at a fever pitch. Here are the latest developments as Crimean lawmakers call for a popular vote on rejoining Russia, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, they weigh in with strong warnings and sanctions.

The U.S. tries to boost the morale of Ukraine and its anxious neighbors by sending half a dozen fighter jets to the region. And Russian forces make a move of their own, capsizing an old warship in a narrow passage and trapping Ukrainian naval vessels. CNNs Elise Labott is standing by in Rome, Barbara Starr is over the Pentagon, but let's begin with our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, with the very latest -- Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, with the announcement of this referendum for independence in effect for Crimea and attaching itself to Russia, the president and Secretary Kerry really had to make definitive and strong statements today. And they also took the first steps with penalties on Russia, these visa bans on senior officials as well as laying the ground work for further sanctions on entities which could include Russian state banks. They are keeping the diplomatic path open, but that path moving frustratingly slow.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): Increasingly frustrated by the stalemate in Ukraine, today, the Obama administration delivered new penalties and a unified condemnation. The White House punishing Russia with a visa ban for senior officials involved in the military intervention. And as ethnic Russians in Crimea celebrated a referendum to effectively declare the region part of Russia, U.S. leaders rejected the idea outright.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The proposed referendum on the future of Crimea would violate the Ukrainian constitution and violate international law. In 2014, we are well beyond the days when borders can be redrawn over the heads of Democratic leaders.

SCIUTTO: Despite the president's strong words today in Rome, Secretary Kerry emphasized additional sanctions will not be implemented yet in order to give more room for diplomacy.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Russia, particularly, has the opportunity now to make the right choices in order to deescalate.

SCIUTTO: But diplomacy is stuttering. Kerry's attempts for direct talks between Russia and Ukraine have so far failed, and among Washington's European allies meeting today in Brussels, there are still questions about how far they're willing to go with sanctions.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We want to reset our relationship. So, we will do it together.


SCIUTTO: Five years to the day the U.S. and Russia hit the reset button, the broader relationship is under threat. On Syria, Russia failed to pressure Bashar al-Assad to cooperate in recent peace talks in Geneva which ended without progress or plans to meet again. And Moscow is allowing Damascus to drag its feet on implementing the deal to destroy its chemical weapons.

One question now, will tensions over Ukraine threaten Russia's cooperation with the west nuclear deal with Iran, a prospect Secretary Kerry dismissed.

KERRY: We will continue to work in a professional manner in order to try to resolve those issues that come to us and to try to do so in a way that advances global interests of peace and stability and security.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SCIUTTO: (on-camera): Iran may be an issue where the U.S. and Russia can continue to work together well, because of Russia's support like the U.S. for nuclear non-proliferation. This is an area where U.S. and Russian interests overlap. But on issues where those interests differ such as on the Ukraine, the real challenge now is finding diplomatic ways to resolve them.

And one other note today, Wolf, that the Ukraine asked Interpol today to issue a red notice, in effect, an international arrest warrant for the former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, who's, of course, accused of leaving the country with billions of dollars of state money.

BLITZER: They're accusing him of war crimes, in effect, ordering the killing of those individuals in Kiev. How's Russia likely to react as they regard him still as the legitimate president of Ukraine?

SCIUTTO: It's a good question with all these things. And to this point, Interpol has not accepted that request. But you can't imagine that Russia would cooperate if Yanukovych is on Russian territory.

BLITZER: Appears to be right now. Thanks very much, Jim Sciutto for that. He'll be back.

Secretary of state, John Kerry, is on a diplomatic marathon mission right now. He's trying to ease the crisis in Ukraine. He's moved from Kiev to Paris to Rome where he spoke again today with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. Kerry echoed the president's denunciation of that Crimea referendum in response to a question from our foreign affairs reporter, Elise Labott, who's traveling with the secretary. Elise is joining us now. So, tell us how it went down where you are, Elise.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, Wolf, Secretary Kerry met for a fourth time in the last 36 hours with Foreign Minister Lavrov trying to get this diplomatic process going, but an issue is what the future of the Crimea is going to be. You know, the U.S. is really pouring a lot of cold water on the idea of this referendum for Crimea to join Russia, but we've been talking about a lot of people think that if that referendum were to go forward, Crimea would vote to join Russia.

I asked Secretary Kerry whether there are any circumstances the U.S. could accept this referendum. Take it a listen to what he said.


LABOTT: You said that the Ukrainian people have the right to determine their own future. Does that include the people of Crimea? Don't they have the right to determine their own future?

KERRY: Crimea is part of Ukraine. Crimea is Ukraine. And we support the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the government of Ukraine needs to be involved in any kind of decision with respect to any part of Ukraine. Any referendum on Ukraine is going to have to be absolutely consistent with Ukrainian law. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LABOTT: Well, Wolf, it's kind of interesting that Secretary Kerry does imply that there would be some kind of referendum, but what he's saying is it has to be under the Ukrainian constitution, and that would mean that all Ukrainians would have to vote on it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Elise, after three straight days of these talks and Kerry has been deeply involved, so far, no one seems to be budging. So, where do we go from here?

LABOTT: Well, despite the tough talk, Wolf, I think there is a diplomatic progress in play. And I think you're going to see people start to climb down over the next couple of days. And you saw Secretary Kerry throwing an olive branch to Russia, the U.S. not imposing those sanctions, as Jim was saying, to give diplomacy a chance and also to show Russia that it can get what it wants regarding the Crimea as long as it's not so brazen about it.

So, I would say an educated guess is there'll be some kind of diplomatic process you get over the next week or two, get the Ukrainians and the Russians in the same room, maybe you have some kind of diplomatic agreement where Russia pulls back its forces. But it's going to be back to the status quo. And in the end of the day, Wolf, Russia is going to get what it wants.

Putin will remain very tight control over this de facto Russian territory, and when you look at countries that in NATO, they'll never want Ukraine to join under these circumstances and that's exactly what Putin wants.

BLITZER: He could be a big winner in all of this. We'll see what happens. Elise, thanks very much.

As tensions rise in Ukraine, the United States and Russia, they are both making some strategic military moves. Russia is beginning some massive air defense drills not very far away from Ukraine. Let's go live to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. What are you learning, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, these drills, apparently by all accounts, are about 300 miles from the border with Ukraine, about 3,000 troops involved. As you say, air defense exercises so different than the kinds of forces and weapons they put into Crimea. This is about defending Russian territory. But make no mistake, we've talked to some U.S. sources who -- government sources who've been looking at this and say their concern remains the same.

Could the Russians be using these exercises as a pretext for something else, as a pretext for moving troops into Ukraine, more troops into Crimea? That's the big worry. They want to make sure that diplomacy is on track, but diplomacy needs to work, they say, before something goes wrong -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara, there've been a number of U.S. military moves today. Bring us up-to-date on what's going on. STARR: Well, first up, the U.S. navy destroyer, USS Truxtun, left where it was ported in Souda Bay, Greece, sailing several hours towards Turkey. By the morning, it will be inside the Black Sea. This is a regularly scheduled operation. The U.S. navy says the Russians know all about it and that they expect no trouble, no unpleasantness.

This is routine navy business that they are not backing down from, making port calls, making visits. They don't see any problems. Also USS F-15s today landed in Lithuania, part of the effort to reassure the Baltics. There will be more U.S. air patrols over the Baltic nations which are on Russia's western flank -- Wolf.

BLITZER: As far as the Russian military is concerned, Barbara, what's the latest U.S. assessment?

STARR: Well, I've talked to several officials all day long about this. Here's the bottom line, Wolf. You can call it status quo, you can call it pause, you can call it standoff, call it what you will. The concern remains the same. 20,000 or so Russian troops, 15,000 were there, another five to six moved in into the Crimea. We've seen the individual incidents of violence earlier today that have emerged. But this is basically a status quo standoff three days in a row now.

And the question that U.S. analysts are looking at is how long can this last before somebody blinks before there's a problem, before some kind of conflict were to break out. You know, all it takes is two soldiers on two different sides getting into a fight and you can have a big problem. They want diplomacy to work before that would happen.

BLITZER: Yes. I know U.S. officials are deeply concerned about that kind of development. Barbara, thank you.

Up next, Americans on Putin's payroll by selling Russia's message. U.S. Lobbyists, public relations firms, they are cashing in.

And as tensions rise, Ukrainian troops talk about the strange reality they face Russian soldiers walking around their base.

Plus, what will the U.S. do if Crimea residents do vote to rejoin Russia? I'll speak live this hour with the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power.


BLITZER: Some American firms are cashing in big by getting Russia's message across here in the United States. Brian Todd is looking into this part of the story for us. It's fascinating going on behind the scene.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure is, Wolf. You know, while Vladimir Putin continues to defy America and its allies in Crimea, he still got big time interests in the United States and spends a lot of money pushing those interests. We dug into who the high powered Americans are who were doing Putin's bidding in this country.


TODD (voice-over): Turns out Vladimir Putin doesn't just flex his muscles in his own region. He's one of the most powerful figures in Washington with a lobbying and PR machine that makes some Americans very rich. Take Adam Waldman (ph) from the consulting firm, The Endeavor Group (ph), based near the White House.

According to his filings with the justice department gathered by the Sunlight Foundation, Waldman worked a few years ago on behalf of Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov. The documents show Waldman was paid $40,000 a month by Russian billionaire, Oleg Deripaska, to help resolve Deripaska's visa issues. Lavrov later joined the effort, but there's no indication the Russian government directly paid Waldman.

According to the "Wall Street Journal," Deripaska had had his U.S. visa revoked because of concerns he was tied to organized crime. In the same report, Deripaska denied that. Waldman's firm didn't return our calls, didn't speak to us when we went there. Why would the firm work for a country that sometimes works against American interests?

JUSTIN ELLIOT, PROPUBLICA: The right way to look at them are sort of as guns for hire. It's really their business to support controversial clients and, you know, the optics of it aren't great, I think.

TODD: Justin Elliot with a nonprofit investigative news outlet, ProPublica, he found government documents showing a massive American PR firm, Ketchum Incorporated (ph), got almost $23 million from Putin's government between 2006 and 2012. And more than $17 million from Gazprom export, Russia's government-owned gas company.

Ketchum's job, pitching Putin's agenda in the U.S. It sets up TV interviews and was instrumental in getting Putin's op-ed into the "New York Times" last year when Putin scolded the U.S. for considering force in Syria.

BILL ALLISON, THE SUNLIGHT FOUNDATION: What this is is an organization that hire as a lot of, you know, people who work in advertising, some come from the news media, some come from government, a couple of speechwriters or former senators that work for this firm.

TODD: Ketchum sent us a statement acknowledging they do public relations work for the Russians, but also saying, quote, "We are not advising the Russian federation on foreign policy including the current situation in Ukraine." Two other Washington firms who've made hundreds of thousands of dollars working for the Russians through Ketchum didn't speak to us.


TODD (on-camera): Now, despite the optics here, the work these firms do for the Russians is all legal and above board. They are required to file documents with the justice department saying what they're doing and the reason we know about their work and the money they make is because they have complied with the law, Wolf.

BLITZER: So, to be fair, the Ukranian government, former Ukrainian opposition, they've hired Washington lobbyists, PR guys, themselves.

TODD: That's right. They have lobbyists here. Some governments who the U.S. has not gotten along with in the past have had representatives in this country in Washington doing very effective work. Moammar Gadhafi had high powered lobbyists in Washington for a long time. Many, many people do this. This is the Washington game, and Putin is just playing it, playing it pretty well.

BLITZER: A lot of foreign governments. They have representatives here. They have to register as foreign agents with the justice department or register as lobbyist with Congress, but it's all legal. It's part of the process.

TODD: And all these firms working for Putin did register --

BLITZER: It's good to shed some light on what's going on. Thanks very much.

TODD: Sure.

BLITZER: Coming up, dramatic new firsthand accounts of the crisis in Ukraine. We're going to go live to Crimea. We're going to hear Ukrainian military officers. They're going to reveal their fears and what will the U.S. do if Crimea votes to become part of Russia. I'll ask the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power. She's standing by to join me live.


BLITZER: Some of President Obama's toughest talk yet in this crisis, slamming a proposed Crimean referendum to rejoin Russia and warning it would violate international law.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Any discussion about the future of Ukraine must include the legitimate government of Ukraine. In 2014, we are well beyond the days when borders can be redrawn over the heads of Democratic leaders.


BLITZER: Let's bring in our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and our CNN political commentator, Peter Beinart. He's also a contributing editor for "Atlantic Media." Peter, is this just saber rattling? What is the strategy here that the president has?

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I really don't see what the president's strategy is. If the U.S. wants to prevent Russia from going into the rest of Eastern Ukraine, I can see how some of our tools could prevent that from happening. But I don't think we have a lot of leverage to prevent this referendum from taking place.

We don't have to -- we can't -- we won't acknowledge the legitimacy of it, but I don't see that it's very likely, frankly, that the U.S. is going to be able to take tough enough measures especially given resistance from Germany and some other European countries to top sanctions to prevent this from taking place.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, in political terms, and Peter you know, we call this a prebutal (ph), which is making the argument before the act occurs. And so, it was very clear to me from watching the president today and watching the secretary of state today that they know there's very little they can do, that if this referendum were to occur, they knew that Russia would get the outcome that it wants.

And so, they -- you know, they took to the air waves to say that it's, you know, unconstitutional and that it's, of course, you know, a farce. But I agree with you. I don't think that there's much they can do. They started the visa ban today. At some point, they can ratchet up their sanctions and ban Russian banks, for example, from doing business in this country like we did with Iran. But they're not there yet because Europe is not on board with that program.

BLITZER: And what about that? Is there any chance you think, Peter, that Europe will join the United States assuming they go ahead, the Russians and this referendum goes forward, Crimea in effect votes to become part of Russia? Do you think Germany and several of the other major European countries would join the United States in starting formal economic sanctions against Russia?

BEINART: Not tough ones, I don't think. These are countries that are very dependent on Russian gas and also countries where a lot of the Russian elite are now parking their money. So, the costs to them are significant and I don't think that they are likely to judge that those tough sanctions would succeed in dislodging Russia from Crimea.

What makes this such a difficult situation is that on the one hand, Putin is acting in a thuggish, lawless way. On the other hand, it's probably true that most of the people in Crimea would rather be part of Russia. After all, they were part of Russia until 1954. It was quite arbitrary the decision by ashtray for Nikita Khrushchev to hand them over to Ukraine. So, that's part of what makes it so difficult, I think, to find a way of responding that can actually have an impact.

BORGER: And you know, the president has a problem here. I mean, I think he's striking the right tone, because I don't think you can rattle the saber and I think he's trying very hard not to do that. But he has a structural problem that he really can't get over. And that is that, you know, while Congress may be willing to approve sanctions, he's got Europe which is really a problem for him.

So, we can do this visa ban and this asset limits for individuals, but anything broader such as what we did with Iran is very hard to get to. So, the president's in kind of a tough spot here where ironically the Congress is willing to support him, I think, more than Europe.

BLITZER: You know, Peter, it's interesting if you take a look at -- you heard Brian Todd's report on lobbyists, foreign agents working for Russia here in the United States. They're getting a paid a lot of money. Nothing wrong with that. That's not illegal, certainly above board. A lot of foreign countries have representatives right here in the nation's capital. But, now, we have two anchors, two reporters from RT, the Russian government's cable television cable network, "Russia Today," they quit in protest. I wonder how much you think -- how much it will impact does Putin have here in the United States, how much of a say, how much influence does he have through this TV channel, through these foreign agents, these lobbyists, these PR firms?

BEINART: Well, when you think about all the money that Russia has poured into trying to influence U.S. media, if it was doing any good before this invasion of Crimea, it's certainly been all undone by his behavior now. And it seems to me, you know, Putin is someone who cares a lot about propaganda, but it seems to me what he fundamentally doesn't understand is that we live in a world in which values of democracy and human rights and international law are the norm by which countries are judged.

Sometimes, the U.S. is judged as not living up to them. But he's doing himself no favors in terms of international reputation or his reputation in the United States by something which is so transparently lawless as this.

BLITZER: Peter Beinart and Gloria Borger, guys, thanks very much.

When we come back, extraordinary first in account and video inside a Ukrainian naval base. Coming up, I'll speak live with the reporter who captured it all.

Plus, my live interview with United States ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power. She's standing by live. We'll discuss her message to Russia right now. It's an interview you will see first right here on CNN.

And this important programing note, premiering later tonight only here on CNN, the new original series, "Chicagoland" from executive producer, Robert Redford. We're following the successes and struggles facing this quintessential American city. That's at 10:00 p.m. eastern, 9:00 central only here on CNN.


BLITZER: The United States and its allies -- they are waging an all- out diplomatic effort right now to ease this crisis in Ukraine. But the Secretary of State John Kerry hasn't convinced Russia to talk directly with the new government in Ukraine. And as Crimea sets a referendum on rejoining Russia, the U.S. is starting down the road of sanctions.

We're joined now by the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power.

Ambassador, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: So, what does the U.S. and its allies do if this referendum goes forward in the coming days and the people in Crimea vote to secede in effect from Ukraine and become part of Russia?

POWER: Well, we have made clear today as have many countries around the world that this referendum would be illegal under the terms of the Ukrainian constitution, illegal under international law. Any such referendum would have to occur under the Ukrainian constitution, across the entirety of Ukraine and not just in a sub-region like this.

So, this is a referendum that if it went forward would get almost no recognition except perhaps from Russia, which seems to be behind it.

BLITZER: You know the Russians and some people in Ukraine, they are arguing that Viktor Yanukovych, the president who was democratically elected, he was ousted in effect and he's somewhere in Russia, we believe, right now according to unconstitutional means, basically just kicked out. Was that OK?

POWER: Well, as you know, an agreement was achieved, thanks to European envoys who went in and negotiated with President Yanukovych, as a result of the massive street protests and the sense on the part of the Ukrainian people that their interests and their views were not being taken into account. There was a compromise agreement that was achieved that would have changed the Ukrainian constitution, in order to give the parliament more power and would have allowed President Yanukovych to stay in power and to shepherd the country through this very difficult time until elections were held later in the year. Yanukovych walked away from that agreement and in so doing also left vast evidence of the corruption that he had presided over while he served as president.

So, while Russia might wish that Yanukovych stayed as part of this February 21st agreement, we can't go back in time, Yanukovych made the decision he did, he abandoned the people and his country.

BLITZER: Does the U.S. consider Yanukovych a criminal? Because as you know, the new Ukrainian government, they've asked Interpol to arrest him.

POWER: The Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people are probably in the best position to judge what President Yanukovych did while he was in office and before and perhaps anything he does afterwards. That is not for the United States to decide. And again, what has been impressive about the new authorities in Kiev is the degree to which they appear to continue to reach out to Russia, they want to put in place an independent judiciary, they want to clean up the corruption that has become to rife in Ukraine.

And right now as we speak, they are sitting down with the IMF and other technical experts, trying to put in place technical reforms so as to shore up the economy and the culture of corruption.

BLITZER: So if this referendum goes forward and they vote and they move to become part of Russia, what does the U.S. do then?

POWER: Well, I think you heard President Obama today issue and sign this executive order in much we threaten sanctions against those who would interfere with the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. There were no names on the list today, but those names would come I think as soon as you saw people interfering along the lines of what's been described or proposed in Crimea.

We are hopeful, Wolf, that the political and economic isolation that Russia faces, not just on the behest of the United States but in the broader international community and particularly with Europe standing with us, that with that pathway ahead looking unattractive to say the least, that President Putin can become part of the solution here and pull back his forces from Crimea, engage with the Crimeans in a way that doesn't incite them to make announcements like the kind they made today, but in fact encourage them to engage with the Ukrainian authorities who are eager to do so.

But so far, we have not seen signs that he's prepared to take the de- escalatory ramp that is available to him.

BLITZER: In fact, I see other signs that a lot of observers would agree, that maybe Crimea as part of Ukraine may already be lost for all practical purposes irrespective of what happens. And they point to what happened back in August of 2008 to what happened when Georgia, when there were movement in Georgia and Russian troops moved in then -- this was during the Bush administration, Condoleezza Rice was then the secretary of state.

Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto reminded me of what she said then. Listen to what Condoleezza Rice said when a similar crisis erupted then.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, THEN-SECRETARY OF STATE: I want to make very clear that the United States stands for the territorial integrity of Georgia, for the sovereignty of Georgia, that we support its democratically elected government and its people.


BLITZER: But as you know, Russian troops moved in and in certain areas, they're still there.

POWER: Well, again, I think it's maybe not helpful to talk about precedents. We are seeking to create a future where the past is not replicated here in Ukraine, and the broad unity of the international community I think is impressive and formidable. I've just come from the Security Council where the Russian ambassador would have been under no illusions about the view of the international community on this referendum or on the broader threat that Russia is posing to Ukraine's territorial integrity.

So we're living in the present, Wolf. And President Putin has made clear that he wants to be economically integrated into the international community. The Russian economy is broadly dependent on trade not only with the United States, but, of course, with Europe. It's also dependent on Ukraine as a large export market for it.

So, this is not in Russian's interests. It's not in the interest of the Russian people. And again, we're pushing forward in the hopes that President Putin will take the off-ramp.

BLITZER: But Putin is a smart guy, as you know, and he knows history, he knows what happened in Georgia. Is it OK that Russian troops are still occupying certain parts of Georgia?

POWER: Again, we're focused on the crisis at happened here. We've made clear, of course, our view on events in Georgia and Putin's violation of sovereignty there and it's not OK. But we want -- we are at a moment where there is still a chance for Russia not to escalate and to pull back from the brink. I mean, this is a moment, right? Any day a match could be lit in Crimea or for that matter in eastern Ukraine can cause great harm.

BLITZER: I raised the example -- I raised the example, Ambassador, and excuse me for interrupting, I raised the example because Putin probably says, you know what, the world forgot about Georgia, they will forget about Crimea. I got to do what I want to do and I'm going forward with it. They can have some modest sanctions, if you will, they can scream, they can shout, but they'll forget about it sooner rather than later, just as they did with Georgia.

POWER: The international community would not forget. The kind of isolation that Russia would face in the event of the kinds of maneuvers that appear -- that have been carried out in Crimea and that appear to have been contemplated in eastern Ukraine, these are maneuvers that would leave Russia severely isolated on the international scene.

And as we saw, it feels like a million years ago, but as we saw just a couple weeks ago in Sochi, there is a different model that Putin has pursued. He wants Russia to be on the international stage. He wants it to be flexing its muscles.

This is not something that will happen again if it takes Russia -- if he takes Russia down this path of isolation and a very perilous path that could cost lives in Ukraine.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about the suspension of U.S./Russian cooperation and a whole host of areas. And you've worked (ph) closely with the Russians at the United Nations Security Council and making sure that Syria's chemical weapons are destroyed, making sure this interim deal with Iran is implemented. You need Russia in both of these areas.

But correct me if I'm wrong, you've now -- you've severed all military to military diplomatic ties with Russia. As far as Syria's chemical weapons destruction, that's not going forward because of this rift over Ukraine, is that right?

POWER: We have severed mil/mil engagements or suspended those engagements again, pending a reversal of the decisions that Putin has made in recent days. But, in fact, on Syria chemical weapons, we've got a briefing in the Security Council yesterday, and indeed Syria has undertaken two relatively substantial movements of chemical weapons just in the last week which coincided linearly with this crisis. Let's be clear about Russia on the issue of Syria and I think this also applies to Iran. Russia will do what it deems in its interests. And with the credible threat of military force hanging over events in Syria back in August and September of last year, Russia made the judgment that it was in its interests to call upon Syria and to work with us to get Syria to do away with its chemical weapons. It is proceeding --


BLITZER: But for all practical purposes -- Ambassador, for all practical purposes, if you've suffered military to military real dialogue with Russia and these areas involving a sensitive issue like Iran's nuclear problem, Syria's chemical weapons, doesn't that undermine all the efforts that you've been so engaged in over these past several months at the United Nations?

POWER: Russia will pursue its interests. And Russia has stood with us as part of the P5 plus 1 in seeking to ensure Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon. Russia on the specific issue of chemical ones -- of course, we've had bigger challenges on the other Syria fronts, on the humanitarian and political front, but on the specific issue of chemical weapon, Russia seems to still want Syria to do away with its chemical weapons program. We see no evidence that they're pulling back from the kind of engagement with the Syrian regime that we had seen prior to the Ukraine crisis.

But again, Wolf, we've got to take each issue separately. We are pursuing our interests. We see an interest in the Ukrainian context, not only in standing with the Ukrainian people, but also standing up for the rules of the road in the international order. It would be immensely destabilizing if any sub-region anywhere could just call a referendum with no regard for the view of broader population, no regard for the view of the legitimate authorities and simply decide to join a neighboring country.

So, we are pursuing our interests and again in laying out clearly as President Obama did today the pathway of economic and political isolation that would await Russia, we (AUDIO GAP) that through high level negotiations, we can get President Putin to pull back and see his interests are actually advanced in looking out for Russia's legitimate interests in very different ways.

BLITZER: Ambassador Power, thanks very much for joining us. I know you've been incredibly busy over these past several days. We appreciate it.

POWER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Up next, new video of disturbing scenes in Crimea. We're going to get a live report on the deepening crisis.


BLITZER: We're getting more dramatic firsthand accounts of the rising tensions on the ground right now in Crimea. VICE News reporter Simon Ostrovsky made it on to a Ukrainian Naval Base surrounded by Russian soldiers. Got to talk to some of the Ukrainian officers about their fears.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was just frustrated because our previous admiral just changed his position.

SIMON OSTROVSKY, VICE NEWS: Went to the other side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, other side.

OSTROVSKY: How do you feel about the fact that there are Russian soldiers walking around your base?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just a real occupation, just maybe no fight yet, but it's a real occupation.

OSTROVSKY: What do you think can happen next?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would be nice if the whole world united against Russia to push them to remove all troops from Ukraine.


BLITZER: Simon Ostrovsky is joining us on the phone right now.

I take it, Simon, he also told you he's fearful for his family, he's worried that Crimea from his perspective as Ukrainian national may be lost. What else did he say?

OSTROVSKY: Well, that's the thing. Sevastopol, where the naval base is, is a very mixed city, and it was home to the Soviet Navy which was then divided into the Russian Navy and the Ukrainian Navy. So all of the officers from the Navy, they lived together, they live in the same buildings. And now they've got their neighbors standing outside of their bases and barricading them and not allowing them to take anything in or out.

So obviously they're worried for their families because this could sort of disintegrate into a Bosnia type situation. And I think that's the big fear because you've already got people roaming around and comparing who is more Russian and who is less Russian and there are mixed families and, you know, families that have sailor sons and husbands in both navies. And so it's a very, very touchy situation.

BLITZER: You also -- I want to play another clip of this odd relationship that appears to have developed between these Russian troops and these Ukrainian troops. Let me -- let me play the clip.


OSTROVSKY: It's really surreal at this naval base because the Russians have come in and they've occupied Crimea, they're here with their army. But the Russian soldiers and the Ukrainian naval officers are seem to be getting along. It's like the chilliest occupation I've ever seen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are saying that we are fascists. We are here like, I don't know, like some animals in the zoo.


BLITZER: We're here, he said, like some animals in the zoo. What does he mean by that, Simon?

OSTROVSKY: Well, up until today, actually, these bases have been surrounded by crowds of people who support Russia who peek through the gates and try to see what's going on inside of the bases, but there's been some development today which we're actually doing a news story on. It will be out on later. And the Russian troops have pulled back from a number of bases right now.

And the theory is that an OSCE mission, a diplomatic mission to do fact-finding investigation about the Russian presence here was supposed to arrive, and so the idea is perhaps the Russian pulled their soldiers back temporarily right now until the OSCE observers leave the area.

BLITZER: We were showing our viewers some more video that you shot today of a woman, her child -- I'm going to let it play, and then we'll discuss.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking in foreign language)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in foreign language)


BLITZER: All right, Simon. So tell us what happened here. This mother and her child, what, they were trying to get some food to her husband?

OSTROVSKY: Yes, some of the family members, they're coming to the bases that have been under siege and, you know, they want to get supplies in. And it's really the crowds that are -- seem to be working in unison with the Russian forces who have been preventing the family from bringing supplies inside.

And it's a really ugly situation when, like I said, you've got, you know, people who are each other's neighbor, live in the same city together, preventing people who may have been, you know, their friends a couple of weeks ago from bringing food to their own family members. And like I said, they pulled back today from some of the most visible bases, and we've got a story about that coming out on

BLITZER: Did she manage to get in? What was the end result of her efforts?

OSTROVSKY: I think -- well, in that particular case we've got some more shots later on in that footage where the Russian soldiers actually intervene and take the bag of food and pass it through the window going around the pro-Russia protesters.

You've got an interesting situation with Russian soldiers are actually happen to feed the Ukrainian sailors inside while the banging crowds are in a frenzy.

BLITZER: All right. Simon Ostrovsky, we'll check back with you tomorrow, if we can. Thanks for your very strong reporting.

And to our viewers you can see a lot more of Simon's reporting from Ukraine by going to

Coming up, new details of the violence and the tension in Ukraine both rising to disturbing new level. We're going to go live to the epicenter of the crisis -- Crimea.

Plus Russian war games near the Ukraine border. We're going to map out all the latest military moves with the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers.