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Special Report

All-Star Panel: Obama administration split over Russia

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," June 14, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: Whether they are new or whether they are refurbished, the concern remains that they will be used for exact same purpose that the current helicopters in Syria are being used, and that is to kill civilians. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: A State Department official trying to smooth over a flap with the Pentagon about Russian helicopters on their way to Syria. And we're back now with the panel. Secretary of State Clinton and the Pentagon, David, are now at odds about whether Russia is supplying Syria with new attack helicopters, as she contends, or with old helicopters that have been refurbished, as the Pentagon says. One, what do you make of the disagreement? Does it make a difference to civilians in Syria being slaughtered? 

DAVID DRUCKER, REPORTER, ROLL CALL: I don't think the disagreement matters, because at the end of the day, civilians are in Syria are being killed and Russia does whatever it wants. And it's been this way since the end of the Cold War. And we keep taking a soft approach to Russia. George W. Bush looked into Putin's eyes and saw a friend. That didn't work out so well. 

President Obama has taken a particularly soft approach. And if we are getting anything out of this diplomacy, it's unclear. And at some point, I think, we're gonna have to understand that Russia is a strategic competitor. They are not easy to work with and have no interest in working with us on things that matter to us. And we're gonna have to deal with that and work around it. 

WALLACE: Juan, new helicopters, how big of a role is Russia playing in the carnage that's taking place now in Syria? 

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, clearly they are a supporter. They refuse to join in the idea of international condemnation of what Syria is doing. So you have to wonder what is going on. 

I think there's the mistake of saying new helicopters versus refurbished, that just introduces the suggestion that maybe we don't know what we're talking about that, and that's not helpful. We need to be adamant and very clear here. As David said, people are getting killed. And whether it's refurbished or new it's not good. But once you get in a diplomatic tug of war where you say the United States made a mistake. How can you make a mistake? We should know what we are talking about. We should know if those are new helicopters. In fact, we have, in some cases we have contracts with the manufacturer in Russia. We should be able to recognize it. That is amateurish. 

WALLACE: Charles? 

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, the Russians have interest in Syria. The Russians have influence in Syria. Russia is rebuilding a naval facility in Syria in the Port of Tartus. 

WALLACE: On the Mediterranean. 

KRAUTHAMMER: On the Mediterranean, so it can re-establish a presence which it lost in the post-Soviet days. Putin is the man who said the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century was not the holocaust, the Second World War, who knows, the famines...the collapse of the Soviet Union. His idea is to rebuild Russian strength and Syria is part of that. He thinks in strategic terms and he is not susceptible to the kind of chiding and pleading and bleeding that you get out of the State Department. They know, Putin knows, that in Obama he has no adversary. He has total contempt for Obama, who on every front has given him everything he wanted in the reset policy -- on missile defense, on Iran. We have no complaints on the way it's blockaded us, stopped us, stopped U.N. resolutions. And that is why he does exactly as he pleases. Whether it's a new helicopter or old one is irrelevant. If you take a new one out of storage, an old one out of storage because it can't be used and you restore it, it's a new helicopter. 

WALLACE: Meanwhile, David, the U.N. General Assembly is meeting now on Syria. Will that accomplish anything? 

DRUCKER: No. The U.N. General Assembly never accomplishes anything worthwhile. At least it never accomplishes its goals. A great place for countries to go and talk but you shouldn't expect anything to happen there that can really have an effect on Syria, not with a guy like Assad in control. 

KRAUTHAMMER: It's a statement of how weak our position is. We know everything we attempt in the one place that might have been effect, Security Council, is going to be stopped by a Russian veto, because, again, they have contempt for American opposition. So they are going to go through General Assembly where the Russians don't have a veto, but where the general assembly has no power to do anything about anything ever. 

WILLIAMS: Well, Kofi Annan is there and Kofi Annan has said that his attempts --

WALLACE: Now explain he's the former --

WILLIAMS: The former head of the United Nations.

WALLACE: Right. 

WILLIAMS: He has been there trying to act in some way to bring peace to the situation. And he has acknowledged there's been a failure. 

But what this can do is to say to other countries, especially European countries involved in NATO, this is now a cause for action, a moment for action. We haven't reached that point yet. Everybody has been reluctant to get in. Clearly, Syria become patron for Iran in this affair, and the Russians are involved as we've been discussing this evening. So it could lead to a larger conflagration. But the need right now is to get the other countries to say we need to do something, and we may be approaching that moment. 

WALLACE: That is it for panel. But stay tuned to hear about a mystery that is still unsolved 50 years later.  

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