On Sunday's Meet the Press, NBC host David Gregory pressed Secretary of State John Kerry on the United States' military role in the Russia/Ukraine invasion but Kerry would not give a definitive answer.
Kerry told Gregory, "Russia is going to lose" but he would not confirm or deny that a military option would be the reason. Kerry also defended criticisms of President Obama's "do nothing" response and said that Russia is not in a position of strength.
Although Gregory tried several times to get a clear answer, Kerry politicized the moment. Here is the conversation:
Gregory: I'm just trying to understand. I think a lot of people watching us are trying to understand how important is Ukraine essentially to the United States. What's our interest there? Is this worth fighting for literally?
Kerry: David, let me make it clear; the people of Ukraine are fighting for democracy, they're fighting for freedom, they're fighting to have their voices heard and not be governed by a kleptocracy, by a tyrant, by someone who puts their political opposition in jail, somebody who robs the country of its livelihood and future. And they spoke out against snipers from roofs who were killing them. They kept on marching, and fought for their freedom. Now, they have the opportunity for that democracy, and by the way, President Yanukovych's only supporters abandoned him. They voted against him. They impeached him. So, Russia and President Putin are aligning themselves firmly with this kleptocracy. They're aligning themselves with the person who was legitimately stripped of his power by the parliament, even by his own supporters. I think this is an enormous mistake for Russia and we hope -- President Obama hopes -- that President Putin will turn in the direction that is available to him to work with all of us in a way that creates stability in Ukraine. This does not have to be, and should not be, an East/West struggle. This is not about Russia and the U.S., this is about the people of Ukraine and that's who needs to be front and center.
Gregory: I just want to clarify this; I mean, I gather by what you're saying you don't want to be too precise. Is there a military option that has to be contemplated here?
Kerry: David, the last thing anybody wants is a military option in this kind of a situation. We want a peaceful resolution through the normal processes of international relations. But in the absence of President Putin making the right decision to work with the government of Ukraine, to work with the West, to work with all of us. As I said a moment ago, this is not about Russia and the United States. It's about the people of Ukraine. And we asked President Putin to step back from being in violation of the UN charter, in violation of the Helsinki Final Act, in violation of the 1997 Russia/Ukraine basing agreement. I mean, they are in direct overt violation of international law. We asked them to step back.
Gregory: But can I just challenge you on one point? You say it's not about the U.S. and Russia. But the reality is, just Wednesday, you told my colleague, Andrea Mitchell, that Vladimir Putin said he would respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Now, you're talking about Russia annexing the Crimea. Something happened. And I wonder as you hear some criticism from conservatives who say the issue here is that Vladimir Putin's not afraid, that he saw a red line by this administration in Syria and then no follow-up, no action, that he thinks that he can provoke the U.S. and the West and that President Obama won't do anything in response.
Kerry: Well, he's finding out the opposite. Let me make it clear, President Putin is not operating from a place of strength here. Yanukovych was his supported president. Yanukovych was thrown out despite Putin's support. Yanukovych turned on his own people. President Putin is using force in a completely inappropriate manner that will invite the opprobrium of the world, and it already is. He is not going to gain by this. He may be able to have his troops for some period of time in Crimea unless he resolves this, but the fact is, he's going to lose on the international stage, Russia is going to lose, the Russian people are going to lose. He's going to lose all of the glow that came out of the Olympics -- his $60 billion extravaganza. He is not going to have a Sochi G8. He may not even remain in the G8 if this continues. He may find himself with asset freezes on Russian business. American business may pull back. There may be a further tumble of the Ruble. There is a huge price to pay. The United States is united; Russia is isolated. That is not a position of strength.