This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," March 4, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
BRET BAIER: OK, the breaking news out of the White House that senior officials saying diplomatic off-ramp in the making after a phone call with the German chancellor Angela Merkel, President Obama on that call. Back with the panel. Steve Hayes?
STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Administration officials have been pushing this all day. They are seizing on a comment from Putin's press conference in which he says in effect because I haven't blown anything up you can't come after me. And the White House is choosing to interpret this as meaning this is his pause. He is poised for retreat. And this is why in their words they want to push for de-escalation.
I think the problem with that is it's the president once again choosing to see the world as he wants to see rather than the world as it is. Putin's press conference was rambling incoherence for the better part of 45 minutes. To try to draw conclusions about where he was, he said things contradictory again and again and again. I think de-escalation at this point if you are the White House won't do anything to help the situation. It will rather communicate a lack of resolve.
BAIER: Other news out of this, senior administration, the U.S. will not participate in the G-8 -- that's not a surprise -- in Sochi unless Russia pulls out of Ukraine entirely.
A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: I think the message from President Putin today, and maybe he will surprise us all and pull out with 16,000 troops there, is that as long as is he not killing anybody, he gets to stay there and say it's local defense forces. I don't know what you are talking about. And the problem is if you give him a de-escalation off-ramp opportunity, he has got whatever he still has a presence in Georgia. Then he still has got a presence in Crimea. And then what's next?
If he continues to take territory, which is obviously his goal, but he is not killing anybody, he just -- it's a nice invasion. It's not really a war. At what point do we -- we have -- the administration has to invest in Ukraine long term. It's not here is your $1 billion in loan guarantees. How about this is going to be a long-term thing or more of this going to happen?
BAIER: I want to read something from senior administration officials according to Ed Henry. "Officials acknowledge Europeans are skeptical of sanctions against Russia that may harm European economies. But these European allies are also concerned that without sanctions, situation may escalate in Ukraine and cause more damage to Europe. No timetable yet on U.S. and/or EU sanctions. Pressed on military action, would U.S. get NATO or someone else involved if Putin takes more territory, officials say they still see no scenario -- no scenario involving military action of any kind." Charles?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I think that's unwise to take everything off the table. Look, what if there is a full scale invasion all the way to Kiev? You are going to do nothing? The least that we should be doing now is actually having, offering the Poles exercises on the ground. Sending the chairman of the Joint Chiefs into the Baltic states which are scared to death. They have large Russian populations for joint exercises as a way to demonstrate that at least the countries inside of NATO are going to be protected militarily.
And on the other fronts, I mean Kerry acts as if what we have had here is a breach of international decorum. He says, you know, you take over a country. This is not 21st century major nation behavior, like this is indecorous. In fact, there is something about the number of our century that obsesses him, and it's as if everything that happened before, meaning nations taking over other nations, expanding, seeking dominance, as Russia obviously is, is old history and it changed on the first of January in the year 2000. I don't understand what it is exactly about the world that has changed, but they imagine that there are norms that are self-reinforcing that the Russians are not obeying and somehow that is impossible in the world. But it's not. It's happened.
BAIER: We teased Hillary Clinton. We will talk about that later in the week. We have plenty of time to talk with that and how she will have to deal with Ukraine and the Russia issue. Down the line, very quickly, does Vladimir Putin take this off ramp or not?
KRAUTHAMMER: I don't think he does. Now he wants a lot more.
STODDARD: I don't think we are clear on what it is. I don't know that he will take it.
BAIER: Doubtful. That's it for the panel. But stay tuned for a very enthusiastic TV guest.
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