This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," February 28, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: We are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian federation inside of Ukraine. Any violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing, which is not in the interest of Ukraine, Russia, or Europe. Indeed, the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.
VITALY CHURKIN, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO UN: I think I can say that interference from our western colleagues has not been helpful and they have a certain responsibility for those dramatic consequences.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, the Russian ambassador to the U.N. may not say it's happening, but the Pentagon and our intelligence officials are confirming that some 2,000 Russian troops are now on the ground in Crimea inside Ukraine. And that, you heard the president, is not something that the U.S. is behind. In fact, there will be consequences. There are costs, according to the president. What are those costs, and what is the next step? Let's bring in our panel, Jonah Goldberg, at-large editor of National Review online, Charles Lane, opinion writer for the Washington Post, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Charles?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: As we just heard a little earlier from Jennifer, the Ukrainians and I think everybody is shocked by the weakness of Obama's statement. It is -- I find it rather staggering. And the fact we have done nothing of any importance.
But let me look at the statement, the one you just quoted. Obama said -- he didn't say there will be costs. He said we will stand with the international community, meaning we're going to negotiate with a dozen other countries who will water down the statement in affirming that there will be costs, meaning in making a statement, not even imposing a cost, but in making a statement about imposing a cost, for any military intervention. So he's like three levels removed.
And what he's saying is we're not really going to do anything and we're telling the world. And the reason all of this is important is because even the language of diplomacy, even though it's not going to change anything on the ground, it's a code and it tells Europeans and others how serious we are and how much we want to carry it through.
For example, you have a senior administration official saying we will consider a boycott of the G-8 summit -- it's supposed to be in Russia -- announced today the boycott will be imposed as of now unless Russia withdraws. Withdraw our ambassador in Moscow. Make a statement that means something.
BAIER: How about advocate Georgia and NATO, or do something bold?
KRAUTHAMMER: One thing that you could do under the Montreal convention of 1936 -- I looked all this stuff up -- we are allowed two frigates in the Black Sea. Why not announce that we're going to send them there? We're not going to go to war, but that's what actually the Bush administration announced after the invasion of Georgia.
I mean, the world looks at this statement. Obama's essentially saying, he said any violation of Ukrainian territory is destabilizing, and that's not in Russia's interest. He's instructing Putin on what is in Russia's interests. I can assure you Putin has calculated his own interest, and he's calculated that detaching Crimea from the Ukraine and making it essentially a colony of Russia is in Russia's interests because he knows he has nothing to fear from the West because it's not led by anybody. It used to be led by the United States.
BAIER: It's also striking, Chuck, that the president said that Vice President Biden had just gotten off the phone with the prime minister of Ukraine.
CHARLES LANE, EDITORIAL WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: Not Barack Obama himself. And I would add to what Charles just said. He said it was, this would be destabilizing, which is not in the interest of Europe, Ukraine, or Russia. But he didn't say it wouldn't be in the interest of the United States. In the entire statement, there was no declaration of the United States' interest in the situation one way or another.
And I felt out of the whole, you know, set of sort of observations that the president made this evening, that was the clearest signal of all. He made no statement of U.S. interest in the situation at all.
Look, I made a list. In Hungary in 1956, the Russians went in and the U.S. didn't do anything. In Prague, in 1968, they went in, the United States didn't do anything. Poland in 1980, there was martial law. Georgia in '08, and now we have Ukraine in 2014. I think Putin feels pretty comfortable that whatever these costs are going to be, they're very affordable from his point of view.
BAIER: This was a serious statement delivered to the White House briefing room, and obviously, to the nation, because everyone picked it up. The president went on with his schedule, Jonah. And 33 minutes later, across town, he delivered this to a Democratic audience.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It's Friday. It's after 5:00. So this is now officially happy hour with the Democratic Party.
OBAMA: I can do that. It is an executive action. I have the authority.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: What about that?
JONAH GOLDBERG, AT LARGE EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Yes, I think it's almost out of The Onion, a perfect example of how Obama's comfort zone is domestic politics. That's the prism through which he sees everything. That's probably why he didn't say anything that could be sound-bited against him, that conjured up reminiscences of red lines or anything like that.
But I want to get back to one thing that he said in his statement that I agree with Charles and Chuck have said already. But he said "The Ukrainian people have also reminded us that human beings have a universal right to determine their own future." That is exactly the kind of argument that Putin has ready off the shelf to say that the majority Russians in Crimea deserve to be returned back to Russia. It's the kind of exact argument they will make.
The long term thing about what happens to Ukraine generally, but in the immediate term, Charles is absolutely right. It's all about -- Putin cannot in any way, shape, or form, detach, allow Crimea to get out of his control. It is where the black fleet is. It's a key strategic asset. When you listen to Barack Obama talk about the stuff, you get the sense he has no -- I'm sure he knows these things, but you get the sense he very much cares. From Afghanistan to Iraq, all this foreign policy has been through the prism of domestic politics.
KRAUTHAMMER: And that's why the strength of a statement, even though it's not going to change it up on the ground in a week or two or three, is important, because the rest of the world, if there's going to be a cost, it will be economic or diplomatic or isolation or something. But they'll only do it if they have a sense the United States is serious about this. The Bush administration, the first Bush administration rallied the world against the invasion of Kuwait, which would never have happened because the President of the United States said this will not stand. I'll do this alone if I have to. The world always waits for the signal. You could not have issued a more flaccid statement than what Obama did. Why did he issue it at all? He should have just stayed on the White House and gone off and had his happy hour with the Democrats.
BAIER: I should point out, there will be who will say, well what do you want the president to do?
KRAUTHAMMER: Well, he could recall an ambassador, announced a boycott.
BAIER: No, I mean, today, not go to the Democratic event? Not meet with the fundraisers?
KRAUTHAMMER: When he made the statement about the attack on Syria, where did he go immediately? To play golf. The world sees this and it knows, as we just heard, they can tell if a president cares. And if he doesn't, they won't care, because unless you're led by the super power, you will not go.
LANE: One thing he also could have done is announce that we're going to look at the bank accounts all these guys have in the United States. They all send their hard currency to us, and we could freeze that, and they don't want to have that happen.
BAIER: More on Ukraine, the politics, the geopolitical situation, right after this break.
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