'Your World' on US involvement in Ukraine

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This is a rush transcript from "Your World," March 16, 2022. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: Today, the American people are helping not just Ukraine, but Europe and the world.

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): There's nothing less than genocide going on in Ukraine.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): The American people are standing behind Ukraine.


NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: What a day. What an incredible day, a standing ovation for President Zelenskyy today from no less than the entire United States Congress.

He's gotten probably used to this right now. This is the third time in less than two weeks. He got the same standing ovation from the Canadian Parliament and the European Union Parliament, and all because he is fighting the good fight and hoping he can get more help, but from the White House today, not exactly the kind of help, specifically the kind of air support he wants to see, although there are signs here he might get something very, very close.

All of this at the same time we have seen explosions in Kyiv and the aftermath that shows, even if the city is still in Ukraine's hands, neighborhoods around it are getting battered to the pulp.

We're going to get the read on all of this with Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member in the House Michael McCaul of Texas. We have also got you covered all over the world with Trey Yingst on the latest in Kyiv, Ukraine, also with Jacqui Heinrich on what the president had to say today about whether Vladimir Putin is a war criminal.

Jacqui made a lot of news on that.

First to Trey Yingst on the president of two different countries. We have got Ukraine and we have got the United States, neither quite hearing what the other probably wanted -- Trey.


We have a disturbing update to start the show with here from the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, where officials say that a theater was targeted with a Russian airstrike. Now, in this theater, as recently as yesterday, there were hundreds of people sheltering from the Russian attack on the city.

Officials there say they do not have an updated number on casualties at this point. But, once again, it shows that Russian forces are targeting heavily populated civilian areas. And it comes as Russian troops continue to advance on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

They are targeting residential buildings here inside the city limits. Early this morning, two people were injured when a 12-story apartment complex was hit with a Russian shell. Rescue workers evacuated 37 people from this area, according to a statement released by emergency services.

Now, Ukrainian air defense systems do remain active over the city, as Russia also tries to attack from the air. Ukrainian officials say their military has launched a number of counteroffensives today in different areas across the country.

This drone video captures a Ukrainian strike against a Russian tank in the eastern part of Ukraine. And in that southern city of Mariupol, thousands have been able to flee by car through an escape corridor. The deputy prime minister of Ukraine says the agreements with Russia regarding these evacuation routes are being violated daily and that some people are even being held hostage.

She had this to say about the situation:


IRYNA VERESHCHUK, UKRAINIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Occupants were shooting at humanity, convoys of buses, residential areas and points of gathering of people, as well as taking as hostages the accompanying people.

So, our rescuer, Oleksii Danchenko, has been still kept hostage.


YINGST: Tonight, we have heard some small-arms fire in the distance, as the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv remains under a 35-hour curfew -- Neil.

CAVUTO: Trey, thank you very much.

Now to Jacqui Heinrich at the White House.

The president offering more aid, but it's what he said in between these events today that got a lot of people's attention, thanks to Jacqui Heinrich, who is there now -- Jacqui.


That's right. We first saw the president this morning when he was announcing that new aid to Ukraine. He outlined just how important it was to follow up and show up to the Ukrainian president's request. But at that point, he was not ready to answer any questions.

It was at a second event, a bill signing a couple hours later, that I stopped him on his way out and asked, after everything we have seen, including that video that Zelenskyy played this morning in his address to Congress, after everything we have seen, are you ready to call Putin a war criminal?

Here's what he said.


HEINRICH: Mr. President, after everything we have seen, are you ready to call Putin a war criminal?


Did you ask me whether I would call...

HEINRICH: Putin a war criminal, sir.

BIDEN: Oh, I think he is a war criminal.


HEINRICH: This morning, the president announced a whole lot more new aid to Ukraine, outlining that this response is coming from the U.S., that this request is being heard.

It includes 800 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, 2,000 Javelins, 1,000 light anti-armor weapons, 6,000 AT4s anti-army -- armor systems, 100 tactical unmanned aerial systems. That's an interesting one. We don't have any details on that. And in the briefing, Jen Psaki would not confirm whether these were Switchblade armored drones, also going on to list 100 grenade launchers, 5,000 rifles, a number of guns and also ammunition.

The president saying that the American people are answering Zelenskyy's call for help. Listen to what he said.


BIDEN: The American people are answering President Zelenskyy's call for more help, more weapons for Ukraine to defend itself, more tools to fight Russian aggression.

And that's what we're doing. In fact, we started our assistance to Ukraine before this war began.


HEINRICH: What we are not providing, though, at this point is any way to facilitate the MiGs, which has been a big request of Zelenskyy's.

And I asked Jen Psaki in the Briefing Room, why exactly does the administration see MiGs as provocative and Javelins and Stingers as not provocative? And her answer was that Javelins and Stingers are defensive, and MiGs are offensive.

But there's a certain growing pressure coming from Congress from both sides of the aisle for the president to reconsider that evaluation, Neil.

CAVUTO: Jacqui, on the war criminal thing from the president, did he not hear your first question? Did he come back to you to try to clarify? Could you explain that?

HEINRICH: Well, I said to him, after everything you have seen, are you ready to call him a war criminal? I don't know if maybe he didn't understand me.

CAVUTO: Right.

HEINRICH: He was looking right at me. And he told me no. And then he made his way out of the room. Nobody intercepted him to say, hey, you better go back and answer that differently.

He, of his own volition, turned around and came back and asked me to clarify...

CAVUTO: I see.

HEINRICH: ... what I was asking him. He said, were you asking me, if I'm ready to call -- and I said, Putin a war criminal?

And he said, "Yes, I think he is a war criminal."

So he, once he had a better understanding the question, doubled back and made sure that we had that answer, which made a lot of news.

CAVUTO: All right, but no one intervened to say, Mr. President, you just told Jacqui that he's not a war criminal?


CAVUTO: He reassessed it and came back to you to clarify?

HEINRICH: Yes, of his own volition. I didn't -- we -- I looked at the video. No one -- no one came over and tapped him on the shoulder and said, hey, you better go back there.

He, I think, thought about it for a moment after he walked away.


Jacqui, thank you very much for that.

Jacqui Heinrich making news today with the president of the United States.

Let's go to Congressman Mike McCaul of Texas, sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee, a very important player on this, had a chance to hear President Zelenskyy today.

Congressman, always great for you to take the time. I appreciate that.


CAVUTO: President Zelenskyy was making it clear as a bell what he really, really wants. And I'm sure he's very grateful for this $800 million-plus in other crucial military aid. But he didn't get the grand prize that he really wanted. That is that air support.

And it doesn't look, at least from President Biden, that he will. Do you think that is a mistake? Do you personally think it's a mistake?

MCCAUL: Well, I think, symbolically, giving him the MiGs -- the original plan -- I was over in Poland -- was to have Ukrainian pilots go into Poland and fly the MiGs in.

It's a very complicated issue, a little bit of division between Department of Defense and State on this. And then it ended up with them offering to send them to Ramstein Air Base in Germany. So it unfortunately got botched. And I think, symbolically, that would have meant a lot.

But what I can tell you is, with the new aid package sending, lethal drones, anti-aircraft missile systems, like the S-300, working with our allies to get those in theater, that can, in essence, provide a no-fly zone for President Zelenskyy.

And I must say, one of most compelling moments -- I have been in Congress for nine terms -- but to hear sort of the Churchill of our times talk about this very issue, and the video that they showed of what Ukraine look like before the invasion, and what the bombing has done, history will judge this moment, and it will ask the question, what did you do to stop this?

CAVUTO: Congressman, do you think Vladimir Putin is a war criminal?

MCCAUL: Oh, 100 percent.

I -- look, he's already crossed the line, Geneva Convention, killing innocent civilians. I'm glad the president did say that. I'm glad you had good reporters to ask him that. But he -- targeting a maternal hospital, and that was after he also targeted a children's hospital, cancer hospital in Kyiv, and then hitting civilians in a breadline, for God's sakes, this man is a war criminal.

And if he uses chemical weapons, which could be likely here, or short-range tactical nukes, he's really crossing the line. And I think that should be a red line that we should tell him, if you cross that line, it's a red line.

And I believe and I think our committee will have this resolution to take it to the General Assembly to indict this man for war crimes.

CAVUTO: Congressman, we're getting dribs and drabs out of these so-called peace talks.

I say so-called because they offer tantalizing positive developments, and then they never come to fruition, including a humanitarian pathway and all that, that the Russians ignore.

But the latest at least signal from Russia coming from its foreign minister is that it's open to a neutral Ukraine, and I guess, by extension, the existing government still in place, which would presumably include President Zelenskyy and the entire Parliament, but that it would have to be neutral, and that it could never entertain NATO membership.

Now, this has been hinted at before. They seem to be fine-tuning it now. What do you make of it?

MCCAUL: Well, first of all, I think Putin was told by his military advisers, as we were told, that this would be over in three to four days.

Putin is very frustrated with the advice he got regarding his military, that they're not getting the job done. And now he's doubling down. So, these negotiations, I would say, are not going all that well. But that is one of the concessions they would like to see, is a neutral Ukraine to pledge never to join NATO.

But they would also want like a lease on Crimea. They want the Donbass region...

CAVUTO: That's right. That's exactly right.

MCCAUL: ... and to have no militarization in Ukraine.

And these are -- that's really up to President Zelenskyy. But I'm not -- I don't think Zelenskyy is willing to accept that price.

CAVUTO: Right.

He has already come out and said a number of times, Congressman, that the NATO thing isn't the end-all and be-all. I'm paraphrasing here.

MCCAUL: That's true. That is true.

CAVUTO: But he characterized frustration with trying to join NATO, from dealing with that with fellow NATO members in the past, who didn't want to offer him that. Now they're eager to. But it sounds like he is throwing that out there in an olive branch effort.

A waste of time, you think, or what?

MCCAUL: Well, I think -- I think that was done by design to get -- negotiate.

I think the goal here is not to escalate. We don't want World War III. That's why the no-fly zone would escalate this, where NATO airpower would be clashing with Russian jets. And I think the goal here is to wear down the Russians, as they are doing.

I -- so impressive, what the Ukrainians are doing against this almighty Russian force, which we're finding is not all that capable, and to wear them down, and not escalate, and get them to a negotiation to resolve this.

But it's going to be difficult for Zelenskyy to give away a lot of his territory after what Putin has done, particularly to his civilian population.

CAVUTO: Congressman McCaul, thank you very much. Good seeing you again.

MCCAUL: Thanks, Neil. Thanks for having me.

CAVUTO: All right.

Meanwhile, some history being made in this country. For the first time in four years, interest rates are going up, the ones that the Federal Reserve controls. The Fed moved to hike a short-term interest rate known as Federal Funds. It's an overnight bank lending.

It might sound kind of arcane, but it was lifted by about a quarter-of-a- percent today. It was at near zero. And the Fed seemed to indicate that it's going to keep doing so right through the end of the year every six weeks, when the Federal Reserve meets.

Now, this was well-expected. It was hardly a shock. Take a look at the market reaction to all of this, stocks soaring on the news that it's finally begun. But, again, these are fickle sort of reactions. So, the fact that we had sagging some inflationary issues here, along with oil largely stable today, it's not as pricey as it was -- it's down about 25 percent from its highs.

It's still double what it was a year ago. But this crowd is taking what it can, again, the optimism here that the Federal Reserve has finally begun doing what a lot of people said it should have been doing a while ago to address inflation that it thought was going to be temporary and has proven anything but.

Again, the Federal Reserve has said that your costs are going to go up you, not only the inflation that you're seeing, but the interest rates that you will soon be feeling.

We will have more after this.


CAVUTO: All right, rescue operations going under way in Kyiv earlier today, yet another airstrike, this one almost inescapably deliberate and targeting civilians, as has been the case throughout this deadly war.

The read right now from Maryan Zablotskyy, a Ukrainian Parliament member in Western Ukraine.

Very good to have you, Maryan. And thank you for taking the time.

It doesn't seem just coincidental that all of these big targets are places where civilians hang out, not where soldiers hang out. Do you think that is indeed by design, that this is what Vladimir Putin wants, to go after civilians to crush the nation's confidence?

MARYAN ZABLOTSKYY, UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT MEMBER: Well, of course, it doesn't by design.

So his fantasy of his army invading and being met here with flowers is completely gone. And the only flowers that they are receiving are for funerals of Russian soldiers. And there are already thousands of them dead in Ukraine.

Unfortunately, the picture is still very grim. I just returned yesterday from Kyiv. We had an extraordinary Parliament session, where we had to adopt a number of legislation. The whole city is basically full with our armed forces. It's very fortified.

But, unfortunately, all the time, we could hear the sirens and, all the time, we could hear the explosions. But as far as my understanding is, the Russians are being pushed back.

CAVUTO: So, as a Parliament member -- and I give you enormous credit, where most of you have stayed behind in the country, at great personal risk to yourselves.

But I'm sure you keep an eye on these back-and-forth peace talks, whatever you want to call them, going on. And a development today was that Russia seems open to a neutral Ukraine, but its definition of neutral might not be yours, where soldiers are still present, Russian soldiers, especially in these Russian-backed republics.

And they're going to be in the neighborhood, maybe not in your country, but right on the border. How do you feel about that?

ZABLOTSKYY: My best understanding is that Vladimir Putin is the only decision-maker in the country on the subject.

And he was 100 percent confident that he would take over the country by military force by now. I think he was definitely not prepared for the scenario where his forces would suffer catastrophic casualties, as they are now, and where the prospect of military defeat is now incomprehensible for Ukrainian forces, of course.

Now he is in a situation with -- in which he probably does not know what to do. So he's trying to implement some ridiculous plan B. And we know that he is trying to recruit forces from Syria, from Libya, from Africa, which we think is a completely ridiculous idea. It will definitely not help him. And he maybe will try to search for a way out.

But he was definitely not prepared for this. Neither were his forces. They have food supplies for only a couple of days. They had a special parade uniform for the streets of Kyiv. But, of course, now those plans are completely scrapped.

CAVUTO: You know, Maryan, I'm curious what you make of the fact more aid was offered certainly by President Biden today, $800 million worth, for vital military support, but not air support, not an enforcement of a airspace over your country.

And the argument has always been, as you know, that that invites World War III, and that, all of a sudden, all bets are off. How do you feel about that -- about that argument?

ZABLOTSKYY: Well, first of all, in asking for more, I have to say great appreciation and great thank you on behalf of Ukrainian people to American people; $14 billion are extremely -- a lot amount of money. And the amounts of weapons the American people have been providing to us -- today to us is extraordinary and enormous. So we are very grateful for that.

But this is not just a fight for Ukraine. I think that we are possibly at the potential moment of World War III, and not necessarily with Russia. But if Russia breaks this rule that was since the World War II that you cannot change border by force, then we will be in continued -- in continuous mode of conflicts around the world.

This has to be stopped now, unless it gets out, so that anything that can be done to stop the world -- or the rules. Now it should be done. And I think it's a good investment of U.S. money. It's a good investment into potential development economy of freedom and global security.

So, in any way we can move forward together with you would be greatly appreciated. And I think it will be mutually beneficial.

CAVUTO: So, just to be clear, Maryan, you're saying that the threat of World War III is there with air support or not, that if Vladimir Putin is left to his own devices, it's going to come to that?

ZABLOTSKYY: We are going that way anyways.

Look, he has made territorial claims not only in Ukraine, but on NATO member countries like the Baltics.

CAVUTO: Right.

ZABLOTSKYY: He has openly threatened Ukraine.

I think that state-sponsored terrorism on the U.S. territory is very likely. He has cyberattacked United States a number of points. It is only a question of time until it escalates. So he's already bombing Ukrainian bases which are just a few kilometers from the NATO territory.

Russian military does not have that kind of precision to guarantee that it will hit only Ukraine all the time. We have thousands of volunteers coming to Ukraine. We have already two dead American reporters, including one, unfortunately, from FOX News, in Ukraine.

This will escalate. And the potential for World War III is more than likely now. It has to stop -- to be stopped. And we are at the front line of stopping that. So, any sort of aid you can provide us, we will use to stop the Russian army.

CAVUTO: Got it.

Maryan Zablotskyy, thank you very much, Ukrainian Parliament in Western Ukraine still staying on to fight the good fight.

And, again, just to update you, the president indicating today that he was going to provide and will provide more aid, but not the air cover that Ukrainians were looking for. He has somewhat bipartisan support on this, but a growing wave of others who say it's gotten to the point now where it should be considered. For now, it is not.

In the meantime, the push for American companies to get themselves out of Russia, the sooner, the better, that is not coming from our president. That is coming from, today, Ukraine's president.

I will explain -- after this.


CAVUTO: Well, that didn't take long.

A Kremlin spokesman saying this idea that Vladimir Putin is a war criminal, such talk is unacceptable and unforgivable. That's Russian for: We don't like it.

More after this.



ZELENSKYY (through translator): All American companies must leave Russia from their market, leave their market immediately, because it is flooded with our blood.


CAVUTO: All right, well, a good many companies, not only American, have indeed left Russia, but not enough, according to President Zelenskyy.

You have got to hit them where it hurts. And, economically and financially, when American companies bolt, well, Russia hurts a lot, but apparently not enough to his liking.

Charlie Gasparino, a good many companies have left. Many more are looking to leave. But he's saying many more should. What do you think?


I think some -- for some companies it's not that easy just to unwind their business relationships, if you're a bank, for example, you're Citigroup, you have been doing business in Russia for many years, just to unwind those relationships. You do have a responsibility to your customers.

So I'm not -- listen, I'm not -- I'm not trying to like carry water for Wall Street. I'm just saying that there is -- there needs to be a transition. And I think that's what people -- places like Citigroup, Goldman Sachs -- if you saw, David Solomon has been kind of all over the place on this recently.

And I think one of the reasons why that is -- and he's clarified his remarks today, saying that it is his responsibility to leave Russia, to be part of the global community in doing so. He's got business ties there.

McDonald's -- remember, you had the former CEO on FOX Business today of McDonald's.

CAVUTO: Right.

GASPARINO: He made a great point.

Because of the nature of their business, it's the franchise business -- franchise nature. It's easy to sort of close it down, right? It's not -- they're not -- it's not part of their company. It's Russians that essentially own, I guess, the franchises in Moscow or elsewhere in Russia, or Americans, and you can tell them to relocate.

So it's a little easy, easier for McDonald's to do.

CAVUTO: But we do know, Charlie, that Vladimir Putin will seize their assets. He's threatened to do so, in fact, has done so.

Now, in the case of McDonald's, those assets are hard to move over back to the United States. So he takes all the burger equipment and the ovens and all and maybe tries to make a Big Mac himself.

But the fact of the matter is, it's tough to do. What I think Zelenskyy saying is, more have to start doing it, tough as it is, because any company that stays behind and is in some way helping Russia is helping Russia on the war front. And that, he cannot tolerate.


CAVUTO: What do you think of that argument?

GASPARINO: Well, he's -- I think he's right, obviously.

I mean, Neil, one of the best things about the concerted effort by corporate America to pull out of Russia is what it did to the -- what it's being doing to the Russian economy.

CAVUTO: Right.

GASPARINO: And we don't see the pictures from inside Russia, but you get the feeling that all is not great at home, that there's a lot of unrest, people are protesting.

And they're protesting not because -- not only because of the bloodshed in Ukraine, but they're also protesting, Neil, because their way of life and their standard of living...

CAVUTO: You're right. You're right.

GASPARINO: ... has been cut down dramatically in recent weeks, and it's going to keep getting cut down.

And here's the interesting thing. Zelenskyy is a smart guy. And he's saying, give us time. Give us weapons, so we can make this a -- play a long game against Russia. And while we're playing that long game, enact those sanctions, which essentially brings the Russian economy to its knees.

There's just so much they can do through crypto and through back channel through China.

CAVUTO: Right.

GASPARINO: They need -- they need the global system that they have been -- that they're used to.

CAVUTO: Got it.

GASPARINO: They need that...

CAVUTO: Charlie, I'm jumping on you here...

GASPARINO: Go. Go ahead.

CAVUTO: ... because I did want to pick your fine brain on the Fed.

It raised rates today, first time in almost four years. Indications are many more rate hikes to come. Yet stocks are soaring. Why?

GASPARINO: Because this is one of the weakest of weak tea rate increases in the face of inflation we have ever seen. And markets like that in the short term.

I mean, listen, this is nothing. I mean, this is a blip. We have 7, maybe 8 percent -- we have 8 percent CPI print. It's probably -- it's probably double digits.

And that's before the oil shocks. I mean, this is -- we have bad inflation. And this guy is dithering. Now, of course, stocks like this in the short term. Now they're not going to like it if we just keep getting inflation, and he has to turn around and say, forget about seven 25-point increases. I got to do 10 50-point increases.

And then that changes it. And that could happen, because he's taken such a weak-kneed -- a weak approach to this. I mean, he's missed the boat. Remember, transitory inflation.

CAVUTO: They like it when he misses the boat, right? They kind of like that part, because maybe he isn't going to be too aggressive.

GASPARINO: Algorithms...

CAVUTO: But it's a weird way to be, you know? Right.

GASPARINO: Here's the thing, Neil.

Stock traders and algorithms are stupid. I have -- bond traders have always told me that.


CAVUTO: All right.

GASPARINO: They're extremely -- what I mean by stupid, extremely short- term, myopically short-term-oriented. And that's what this trade is today.

CAVUTO: Got it. Got it.

All right, my friend, thank you very much.

GASPARINO: You got it.

CAVUTO: I hit you with a lot, but you're the best in the business.

He really is, Charlie Gasparino on all of that.

Again, stocks soaring today on the notion that interest rate hikes are to come, but maybe we can all deal with that. That's the hope anyway. But, again, they're kind of myopic. They -- kind of be in the short-term lane.

The read from how far we go on punishments for Russia. We have got John Thune coming up, key member leadership in the Senate, as to whether the president is going far enough -- after this.


CAVUTO: Well, if his words couldn't grab you, could these images President Zelenskyy showed of people getting battered and killed by the hundreds change your mind that the country needs air support, air cover?

The president closing his remarks by saying, close the sky over Ukraine, when he addressed pretty much all of Congress, the complete House and the complete Senate today. He didn't get everything he wanted. President Biden did provide another $800 million in military aid.

But, to Mr. Zelenskyy, the one thing he really wanted, like that air cover, like the help in sort of sealing down the military space over the country, that was not going to happen, at least not now.

Senator John Thune, the Senate minority whip, South Dakota senator, with us right now, the senator just out of a very important classified briefing with Senate leadership on this very, very subject.

Senator Thune, good to have you back.

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): Thanks, Neil. Good to be with you.

CAVUTO: It looks, for the time being, Senator, that the one thing that President Zelenskyy wants, and he pounds again and again, no matter whether he's talking with representatives from America, or Canada, or the European Union, is that coverage of -- over Ukrainian airspace and to make sure that that's provided, because that will change the odds for Ukraine.

But it's not happening. How do you feel about that?

THUNE: Well, to me, Neil, the -- this is what they're asking for.

And I think that, if we're going to be all in on this and supporting their effort, if they want to give MiGs, we ought to give them MiGs. If they want drones, we ought to give them drones. If they want, SAMs, we ought to give them SAMs.

The Ukrainians want to carry the fight. Let them. If they -- if they need these weapon systems, then we ought to make it possible for them to help defend the airspace there over Ukraine. And I think at least -- the speech this morning, at least, though, was very powerful, very effective, I thought.

You all -- everybody had a chance to see it. But it was kind of delivered to the American Congress. The American Congress, I think, has been effective in persuading the Biden administration to provide more lethal aid and to impose stronger sanctions. Many of the steps that the administration has taken, they have taken slowly, and they have kind of been drug into it.

But I think to the degree that Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people continue to inspire people all over the world, hopefully, at least here in this country, it will have the desired effect. And the pressure that we can help bring and the American people can help bring on the administration will lead them to at least give them the weapons that they need to fight the fight.

CAVUTO: So you are open, Senator, to give him everything he needs and wants, including those MiGs, regardless of how they get into Ukraine?

THUNE: Right.

And I -- and there are ways you can do this. I mean, obviously the Poles have wanted to be helpful. The Romanians have wanted to be helpful. But the MiGs that he is asking for and that the neighborhood wants to provide, we ought to help make that logistically possible.

It doesn't mean that American pilots are going to be flying planes or we're going to be directly engaged. I'm not for that. But if the Ukrainians want to defend the airspace over their country, we ought to make it possible for them to do that. That's simply doing what we said we would do.

CAVUTO: But that does part company a little bit, Senator -- I apologize -- that that parts company from the president and his military advisers and some of your fellow Republicans, including Senator Hagerty was telling me earlier today, that could be an opening to World War III.

What do you think?

THUNE: Yes, and I think that's -- I wouldn't use those words, Neil.

I think, frankly, anything that we provide, a weapon system, if we give them SAMs, and they can shoot Russian planes out of the sky, or we give them drones, you're essentially doing the same thing. Whatever you do, Putin is going to say -- claim you're escalating, because that's what he does.

His whole predicate, his business model is all based upon deception and disinformation and lies. And he's trying to convince his people that there's a rationale for them being there and blowing up neighborhoods and indiscriminately killing women and children. People aren't buying that.

And I don't think that we should stop at anything, short of American, direct American involvement, at giving them the weaponry that they need, so that they can defend themselves. That's what they're asking for.

Their leader was pleading, I think, with America today, with the Biden administration, with the Congress. And it may take some pushing again. But I think eventually, hopefully, the administration will come to the conclusion that this is something they're going to need.

And the longer this -- that Ukrainians can carry this fight, the more likely it is, in the end, Putin is going to make a calculation that this doesn't make much sense. And I think we ought to -- we ought to do everything possible to make that happen.

CAVUTO: Senator, in the meantime, there's always hope that something comes of these ongoing talks, more today.

But it is unusual when the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, sort of lays out what he calls absolutely specific wordings that are close to, in his words, again, being agreed upon concerning these ongoing talks.

One of the things they have talked about, sir, is this idea of Ukraine being still neutral, if this were to end, and agree to being a neutral power, not one inclined to join NATO.

As you know, President Zelenskyy seems to have raised that a number of times, that he's not keen on that anyway, that it wasn't going anywhere long before the war in Ukraine. So, he seemed to throw that out there as an olive branch to get talks going.

But, furthermore, the Kremlin says some of the options for Ukraine are modeled on Austria and Sweden as these so-called neutral countries. And I'm wondering if you believe that and that Ukrainians should consider that, or that the guy making the offer is the guy pushing that?

THUNE: I think that, in the end, it's -- this is going to have to be a decision.

Obviously, the president, President Zelenskyy, and his team would have to consider any offer that's on the table, but it has to be in their best interests. And if they -- if the Russians come up with conditions that are agreeable to the Ukrainians, that preserve their sovereignty, that dial down the escalation of this, and hopefully allow them to live in peace and freedom, then that's going to be ultimately a decision to be made by the Ukrainians.

And I don't -- what the -- what is on the table in terms of negotiations, as you said, there's some reporting about that. I don't -- hard to know exactly what all that entails. But it would be nice if there would be a path forward that would allow Ukraine to maintain its sovereignty for the Russians to go home, to quit invading, and quit killing innocent women and children.

And short of that, it's hard to see where Ukraine would be agreeable to any other terms, but maybe they will get there. And I hope they do, because it would be nice to see all the killing stop, and especially of these innocent civilians.

CAVUTO: While I have you, finally, and very quickly, Senator, the Kremlin didn't take too kindly to the president saying that Vladimir Putin is a war criminal.

Do you think he is a war criminal?

THUNE: Well, I do.

I mean, I think that the things that he's done -- and I'm sure he will make some argument that maybe these were mistakes, they didn't -- weren't really intended. I don't know what he's going to argue.

But this is an unjust, unprovoked war of his own making. He is the aggressor here. He is not the victim. And the steps that they have taken recently, where they start targeting civilians and killing, again, innocent women and children, those are war crimes. And I think he should be held accountable as a war criminal.

And I hope that, when this is all said and done, there won't be a place he can go in the world where he can find safe harbor. He ought to be a marked person. And I would hope, eventually, the Russian people are going to turn on him. And it seems like that's happening, although they try and squash any -- any form of resistance in Russia.

But, at the end of the day, this is somebody who shouldn't be accepted anywhere in the civilized world. And I hope that's, at the end of this, one of the results that happens.

CAVUTO: So, at the end of his war -- and we hope it's soon and we hope it's peaceful and we hope without any more horrific airstrikes. But do you think sanctions and punishments that are in effect right now for Russia should continue as long as Vladimir Putin is in charge of this?

THUNE: Well, I think that I would support that.

Clearly, there will be a conversation about that if and when the time comes. If he is to withdraw, and he gets all the troops off the border, and respects Ukraine's sovereignty, and allows the Ukrainian people to live in democracy and freedom, then that's an entirely different conversation.

But my view would be that, as long as he is running Russia, and as long as he is inclined to do provocative things like this in the region, that those sanctions, which are hurting him personally and the cronies around him that he's turned into billionaires ought to stay in place.

Now, you shouldn't punish the Russian people, obviously. But there's got to be some consequence. And, ultimately, I think that the Russian people are going to hold him accountable. And, again, my hope would be at the end of this that he's not on the scene anymore as a leader for Russia, because these are people who I think desperately want to live different lives and are being sold a bill of goods right now with all the disinformation and deception that's used by the Russian leadership to convince them that this is somehow a justified war.

It's not. He needs to be held accountable. And those who have had -- in any way abetted or enabled or assisted in this need to be held accountable as well. Those sanctions ought to stay in place.

CAVUTO: Senator, thank you very, very much.

Senator John Thune of South Dakota weighing in on all of that.

THUNE: Thanks, Neil.

CAVUTO: The Senate minority whip.

Thank you, Senator.

So, that's the read right now on how you deal with Vladimir Putin, and a growing consensus building -- I have heard this on both on the news channel and on FOX Business earlier today -- sanctions and punishments stay in effect in Russia no matter what happens in Ukraine, as long as Vladimir Putin is in charge.

I wonder if he knows that -- after this.


CAVUTO: All right, defense ministers from around the world, including our own defense secretary, in Brussels tonight, but there's great concern about Russia getting a bit aggressive here.

We got word that a Russia-made drone crash in Romania. So to say that they're concerned would probably be an understatement.

To Jennifer Griffin with more from the Pentagon -- Jennifer.

JENNIFER GRIFFIN, FOX NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, the concern, of course, is that this conflict spills over to an Article 5 NATO nations and NATO has to respond. U.S. officials are trying to get nearly a billion dollars of military aid to Ukraine as fast as possible.

Today, the White House outlined exactly what it will be sending in a clear message to President Putin. The new $800 million assistance package includes 800 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, 2,000 Javelin, 1,000 light anti-armor weapons and 6,000 shoulder-fired anti-armor systems, 100 tactical unmanned aerial systems -- those are drones -- 100 grenade launchers, 5,000 rifles, 1,000 pistols, 400 machine guns, and 400 shotguns, over 20 million rounds of small-arms ammunition and grenade launcher and mortar rounds, 25,000 sets of body armor and 25,000 helmets.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with his NATO counterparts today in Brussels, as the U.S. and its allies continues to review options to strengthen NATO's eastern flank. He spoke alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg today, who again ruled out establishing a no-fly zone, despite the emotional appeal today to Congress from President Zelenskyy.


JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL: NATO should not deploy forces on the ground or in the airspace over Ukraine, because we have a responsibility to ensure that this conflict, this war doesn't escalate beyond Ukraine.

LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We support their ability to defend themselves. And we will continue to support them going forward.

We believe that our commitment to NATO, our Article 5 commitment is ironclad.


GRIFFIN: President Zelenskyy said this war is not about the NATO alliance; it is about defending freedom and democracy.

In his address to Congress today, he said post-World War II institutions had failed to prevent the invasion of a sovereign country and proposed a new global alliance between the United States and European allies, leaving out the world's autocrats.

Zelenskyy has explained the group would provide all the necessary assistance, including weapons, humanitarian support, even sanctions, within 24 hours of such an attack.


ZELENSKYY (through translator): We propose to create an association, U24, United for Peace, a union of responsible countries that have the strength and consciousness to stop conflicts immediately.


GRIFFIN: Secretary Austin heads to Slovakia tomorrow, a key NATO ally, who could provide some of the long-range surface-to-air missile defense systems that Ukraine and President Zelenskyy need -- Neil.

CAVUTO: Jennifer, thank you very much.

Jennifer Griffin at the Pentagon.

Well, it has happened again in Ukraine, a target that seemed to be specifically civilians, this time, a theater where hundreds were trying to hunker down to avoid the very thing that befell them. This is a theme that's been followed in at least 18, 19, 20 hospitals. We have seen this play out at apartment buildings.

It does seem to be a strategy.

Mike Tobin in Lviv, Ukraine, with more.

Mike, what can you tell us?

MIKE TOBIN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're talking about is a theater that was used as a bomb shelter.

It was the Donetsk Regional Drama Theater, also called the Mariupol Drama Theater. And a couple things that are remarkable about it. First of all, it was well-known that that was a place where women and children would go.

March 14 images from Maxar satellites show that the word children was written in Russian on the outside, both on the front and the rear of this building. Still, today, we now have images that this theater has indeed been hit by some type of an airstrike and shows severe damage.

What we're hearing from the Ukrainian foreign minister is that people are indeed buried there. What we have from the deputy mayor of Mariupol is, you had between 1,000 and 1,200 people who were in this facility.

The difficulty in terms of producing good casual figure -- casualty figures right now is because there's fighting in the area, and because they were down in the basement, and there is so much debris in the way, preventing any rescuers from getting in there -- Neil.

CAVUTO: You know, Mike, and you have reported on this, that these series of events, one, you could say a fluke. Another you could say, all right, well, it happens and all.

But between the two nuclear facilities, the countless number of hospitals where people are hunkering down, and it's well-known where they're hunkering down, civilians are being targeted. And it seems to be a repetitive pattern.

TOBIN: It really does seem to be.

It gets to a point where you could try to -- you could try to say, well, dumb ammunition, and they're just firing in the civilian population.

CAVUTO: Right.

TOBIN: But there's so much repeated fire into these urban areas. At best, you're talking about a callous disregard for civilian life.

CAVUTO: That's a nice way of putting it.

Mike, great reporting, as always. Please, as I always say, be safe, my friend.

TOBIN: Thank you. Thank you, buddy.

CAVUTO: Mike Tobin right now getting the latest in Ukraine, where they're hopeful, they're hopeful that some of these things that are coming up in negotiations, as unrealistic as they might appear to be, continue.

We do know the defense ministers meeting in Brussels today, the president due their next week. Hope springs eternal that cooler heads will prevail. It just has not happened yet, has it? But we wait, we watch, and we pray.

Here's "The Five."

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