Interview With Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday
Secretary of State
QUESTION: Joining us now to discuss all these issues is the Secretary of State, John Kerry, who’s in Boston. Secretary Kerry, welcome back to Fox News Sunday.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, Chris. Good to be with you.
QUESTION: Pro-Russian separatists have reportedly removed almost 200 bodies from the crash site and are continuing to refuse to allow investigators full access to the site. Has this investigation already been compromised, sir?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it’s been seriously compromised, notwithstanding President Putin and Russia saying that they were going to help to enforce the idea of a full investigation that was – had integrity and access. We haven’t. On Friday, the monitors and the people trying to get in there to secure the site were given 75 minutes. Yesterday, they were given three hours. Drunken – I mean literally drunken separatist soldiers are piling bodies into trucks unceremoniously and disturbing the evidence and disturbing the pattern that is there. Anything that is removed – and we understand some aircraft parts have been removed – compromises the investigation.
So we need full access. And this is a moment of truth for Russia. Some of the leaders of the separatists are Russian. Russia arms these separatists. Russia trains these separatists. Russia supports these separatists. Russia has spoken out and has refused to call on them publicly to do the things that need to be done. So I think this is a fundamental moment of truth for Russia, for Mr. Putin. They need to exert all of the influence that they have in order to protect the full integrity of this investigation.
QUESTION: Secretary Kerry, you say that they arm the separatists, they train the separatists. I want to try to get your latest intelligence on what the Russian role was in this shoot-down. Did they supply the missile that was used to shoot down this airliner? Did they have some complicity, direct or indirect, in the actual decision and the action of shooting down the missile?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Chris, nobody – you can’t draw a final conclusion to an investigation before you’ve had the investigation. But let me tell you what we know and people can begin to make their own assessments. We know to a certainty that within the last month, a major convoy of 150 vehicles, including tanks, artillery, multiple rocket launchers and armored personnel carriers, all crossed over from Russia into this area of Ukraine, and these things were turned over to the separatists. This is one instance. We know to a certainty that the separatists have gained proficiency in using sophisticated surface-to-air missiles and that they have shot down some 12 aircraft in the last months, including two transport planes. We know to a certainty that we saw the launch from this area of what we deem to be an SA-11 because of the altitude – 33,000 feet – and because of the trajectory. We have the trajectory recorded. We know that it occurred at the very moment that this aircraft disappeared from the radar screen. We know that very shortly thereafter, separatists were bragging in the social media about having shot down a transport plane. We know that the so-called defense minister of the People’s Republic of Donetsk, Mr. Igor Strelkov, actually posted a bragging social media posting of having shot down a military transport, and then, when it became apparent that it was civilian, they pulled it down from the social media.
QUESTION: But Secretary Kerry --
SECRETARY KERRY: We have voices that we have overheard of separatists, in Russian, bragging about the shoot-down and then subsequently taking down social media --
QUESTION: But Secretary Kerry --
SECRETARY KERRY: -- and yesterday --
QUESTION: -- you’re presenting – and I know that you were a prosecutor in Massachusetts – a very strong case with a lot of Russian involvement, which raises the question in the immediate aftermath of the shoot-down on Friday, President Obama said he still is not going to provide military aid to Ukraine, and he said that he is not going to impose new sanctions on Russia. And --
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, the President – no, no, no, I think you --
QUESTION: -- if I may finish my question, sir.
SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah.
QUESTION: And I guess the question is: If this is an outrage of unspeakable proportion, as the President said, why not impose a greater cost on Vladimir Putin?
SECRETARY KERRY: The President imposed a greater cost on Vladimir Putin the day before this shoot-down took place. And what we are doing now is trying to bring our European counterparts along because we have 4 percent of Russia’s trade is with the United States; 50 percent of their engagement is with Europe. So we are trying to encourage our European friends to realize this is a wakeup call, and hopefully they will also join us in these tougher sanctions.
QUESTION: But again, sir --
SECRETARY KERRY: The President – let me finish, let me finish. The President is prepared to take additional steps, and we are discussing with the Ukrainians right now what they need, what else we can do, and every – I don’t think anything except American troops going there – other things are on the table, Chris. All of that is now being discussed.
QUESTION: Well, wait a minute. Sir, that is not – sir, if – respectfully, that is not true. You just gave a long list of what Putin is providing the separatists, from surface-to-air missiles to tanks. We’re providing the Ukrainian military with MREs, with military rations. And you talk about putting pressure on the Europeans. In fact, the President, on Friday, didn’t put any pressure on the Europeans. Instead, he said this. Take a look.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: We feel confident that at this point, the sanctions that we put in place are imposing a cost on Russia, that their overall impact on the global economy is minimal.
QUESTION: Secretary Kerry --
SECRETARY KERRY: That has nothing – whoa, whoa, whoa. Look, Chris --
QUESTION: -- if I may just ask my question.
SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah.
QUESTION: If the massacre of 300 civilians isn’t enough, what is it going to take for the United States and Russia to go after entire sectors, not individual companies or individuals, but entire sectors of the Russian economy?
SECRETARY KERRY: Chris, that particular little clip is really taken out of context. It refers to the sanctions that we’ve had in place already taking a cost. The President has not taken off the table the notion that there may be additional sanctions. In fact, he also said that there would be additional sanctions if we can’t move this process forward.
QUESTION: Well, how about just for the fact --
SECRETARY KERRY: And we are currently --
QUESTION: -- that they shot down the plane?
SECRETARY KERRY: Let me just finish.
QUESTION: Why not sanctions for that?
SECRETARY KERRY: Let me just finish. Chris, let me just finish. We are currently in discussions with our European allies precisely with respect to what the next steps will be. And rather than shoot from the hip, the President is going to do this in a thoughtful way – where it’s one day, two days later. We’re just gathering more facts, and I think it takes facts for responsible leadership. So that’s exactly what we’re doing.
QUESTION: I – we obviously have limited time, and there’s a lot to talk to you about. You announced Friday that the U.S. and the allies are extending talks – nuclear talks with Iran for another four months, but when those talks began six months ago, members of the Administration promised that there would be new sanctions if there was not a deal, if there was not an agreement by the deadline, which, in fact, is today. Take a look at what various Administration officials have said, sir.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: If Iran’s leaders do not seize this opportunity, then I will be the first to call for more sanctions and stand ready to exercise all options to make sure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon.
MS. PSAKI: If the Iranians don’t get to a yes at the end of six months, we can put in place more sanctions.
QUESTION: But Secretary Kerry – and that last person was your spokesman, Jen Psaki. But instead of sanctions, Iran is going to get $2.8 billion more in assets that we have frozen instead of sanctions even though there’s no deal, and they continue to – their research and their enrichment.
SECRETARY KERRY: Actually, Chris, they’re reducing their enrichment, and the fact is that this is the first time in 10 years, under this current deal, that Iran’s nuclear program is being rolled back. And I know you and others don’t ever want to give the Obama Administration credit for almost anything, but the fact is this is the first administration to get a rollback in those 10 years, and right now Israel and countries in the region and the world are safer because Iran’s 20 percent enriched uranium is now being reduced to zero, and under this agreement to continue the negotiations for four months, Iran will further reduce the capacity of that enriched uranium to be used by turning it into fuel for the research reactor, which makes it almost impossible to be used in a weapon. In addition, we have inspectors in their facilities every single day. In addition to that, they have not been able to move forward on the Arak plutonium heavy water reactor.
QUESTION: But sir, they can continue --
SECRETARY KERRY: No, no, no.
QUESTION: I – they can continue enrichment.
SECRETARY KERRY: Chris, you like to ask questions, but you don’t like to get answers.
QUESTION: No, I do, sir.
SECRETARY KERRY: Let me answer.
QUESTION: But they do – they are able to continue enrichment.
SECRETARY KERRY: Let me finish my answer.
QUESTION: They are able to continue work on their centrifuges.
SECRETARY KERRY: Chris, I don’t care how many questions you ask. I’m going to finish my answer. And I am telling you that everybody said at the beginning of this the sanctions won’t work, the sanctions regime won’t hold, Iran won’t do what it’s supposed to, and they’re dead wrong. Everything that Iran was supposed to do they have done with respect to this, and we believe – and the sanctions have held, and we believe that it is smart to continue the negotiation as Israel even and others said don’t rush to an agreement; a bad deal is worse than no deal. And we agree, and so we’re trying to move, but we are making some progress, Chris, and we’re not going to turn our back on that progress. We’re going to try to continue for the next four months, and I think what we’re doing by holding their nuclear program at a lower level, we’ve expanded the breakout time, the world is safer, and this is a smart deal.
QUESTION: Finally, sir – and I wanted to give you an opportunity to answer the question there --
SECRETARY KERRY: Finally, yeah.
QUESTION: Listen, the limits on time have been put on by your people. We’d talk to you all day, sir. While – you’re doing a series of interviews with all of the networks, and while you were on camera and while you were on microphone, you just spoke to one of your top aides in between the interviews about the situation in Israel and the fact that 14 Israelis have either been shot or killed in an operation. We want to play a clip of that conversation, because it’s an extraordinary moment of diplomacy. Take a look at this.
SECRETARY KERRY: It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation. It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation.
STAFF: Right. It’s escalating really significantly, and just underscores the need for a ceasefire.
SECRETARY KERRY: We’ve got to get over there.
STAFF: Yeah. Yeah.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, Jon. I think, Jon, we ought to go tonight. I think it’s crazy to be sitting around.
QUESTION: Secretary Kerry, when you said it’s a hell of a pinpoint operation, are you upset that the Israelis are going too far, and in fact, do you intend to go back to the Middle East tonight, sir?
SECRETARY KERRY: I think it’s very, very difficult in these situations, obviously very difficult, Chris. You have people who’ve come out of tunnels. You have a right to go in and take out those tunnels. We completely support that, and we support Israel’s right to defend itself against rockets that are continuing to come in. Hamas has started this process of rocketing after Israel was trying to find the people who killed three young – and one American kid, three young Israeli citizens. It’s disgraceful.
And so, yeah, it’s tough. It’s tough to have this kind of operation, and I reacted obviously in a way that anybody does with respect to young children and civilians. But war is tough, and I said that publicly and I’ll say it again. We defend Israel’s right to do what it is doing in order to get at those tunnels. Israel has accepted a unilateral ceasefire. It’s accepted the Egyptian plan, which we also support. And it is important for Hamas to now step up and be reasonable and understand that you accept a ceasefire, you save lives, and that’s the way we can proceed to have a discussion about all of the underlying issues which President Obama has clearly indicated a willingness to do.
QUESTION: Secretary Kerry, we appreciate your answering all of our questions, even if occasionally I do interrupt, and thank you very much, sir, and safe travels.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Thank you very much, appreciate it.