Interview With Candy Crowley of CNN's State of the Union

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
July 20, 2014

QUESTION: Joining me now, Secretary of State of state John Kerry. Mr. Secretary, it’s good to see you. Let me start off with whether you know anything new about the downing of this Malaysian airliner from intelligence information. What do we now know for certain?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, we know for certain a lot more, Candy. We know for certain that in the last month there’s been a major flow of arms and weapons. There was a convoy several weeks ago of about 150 vehicles with armed personnel carrier, multiple rocket launchers, tanks, artillery, all of which crossed over from Russia into the eastern part of Ukraine and was turned over to the separatists.

We know for certain that the separatists have a proficiency that they’ve gained by training from Russians as to how to use these sophisticated SA-11 systems. We know they have the system. We know that they had this system to a certainty on Monday the 14th beforehand, because the social media was reporting it and tracking it. And on Thursday of the event, we know that within hours of this event, this particular system passed through two towns right in the vicinity of the shoot-down. We know because we observed it by imagery that at the moment of the shoot-down, we detected a launch from that area and our trajectory shows that it went to the aircraft.

We also know to a certainty that the social media immediately afterwards saw reports of separatists bragging about knocking down a plane, and then the so-called defense minister, self-appointed of the People’s Republic of Donetsk, Igor Strelkov, posted a social media report bragging about the shoot-down of a transport plane – at which point when it became clear it was civilian, they pulled down that particular report.

We know from intercepts, voices which had been correlated to intercepts that we have that those are in fact the voices of separatists, talking about the shoot-down of the plane. They have shot down some 12 planes, aircraft, in the last months or so, two of which were major transport planes. And now we have a video showing the – a launcher moving back through a particular area there out into Russia with a missing – at least one missing missile on it.

So we have enormous sort of input about this which points fingers. And now we have these horrendous --

QUESTION: At who, Mr. Secretary? At who?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it basically – it’s pretty clear that this is a system that was transferred from Russia in the hands of separatists. We know with confidence – with confidence – that the Ukrainians did not have such a system anywhere near the vicinity at that point in time. So it obviously points a very clear finger at the separatists, and that’s why President Obama and the international community are demanding a full-fledged investigation, which Russia said they would do.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, do you believe that Russia is culpable for the downing of this commercial jetliner if they gave these separatists the equipment, whether or not they were there on site at the moment the anti-aircraft missile was launched? We do know from folks that have said so publicly in the intelligence community that, in fact, they had to have been trained by Russians, they had to have gotten the equipment from Russia. Doesn’t this make Vladimir Putin culpable for this plane crash?

SECRETARY KERRY: Culpability is a judicial term, and people can make their own judgments about what they read here. That’s why we’ve asked for a full-fledged investigation.

Yesterday – on Friday, the investigators and the people who were needing access, the OSCE monitors, were given 75 minutes. And obviously, the area is under control of the separatists. Yesterday they were given three hours. Today we have reports of drunken separatists piling the remains of people into trucks in an unceremonious fashion, actually removing them from the location. They are interfering with the evidence in the location. They have removed, we understand, some airplane parts.

It is critical – this is a very, very critical moment – for Russia to step up publicly and join in the effort in order to make sure there is a full-fledged investigation that the investigators and people who are coming to help from outside, the ICAO, the FBI, the National Transportation Safety Board. We’re sending people over, others are sending people, experts who have an ability to be able to put these facts together so no one will have doubt, no fingers will be pointed about conspiracies, about ideology and politics governing this. We want the facts. And the fact that the separatists are controlling this in a way that is preventing people from getting there, even as the site is tampered with, makes its own statement about culpability and responsibility.

QUESTION: And what is the U.S. doing about that today? What is different in your approach to Russia since this plane crash? If you believe that they have control or some say-so over what these separatists do --

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, yesterday --


SECRETARY KERRY: Yesterday, Candy, I had a direct conversation with my counterpart, Foreign Minister Lavrov. It was a direct and tough conversation. We’ll see if anything happens as a result of that. I’m confident that President Obama will shortly be talking yet again with President Putin in order to find a way with very specific steps to move forward.

But President Obama, I remind you again, the day before this event, unilaterally moved even before this to put tougher sanctions in place, what we call sector sanctions, sanctions that begin to do something about their energy companies, about their defense companies, about their banks. Several of their biggest banks --

QUESTION: Sure. But Mr. Secretary, is it true that you think --

SECRETARY KERRY: -- will now not be able to access the market.

QUESTION: Do you think – but so far, these sanctions have not changed Russia’s behavior in the least.

SECRETARY KERRY: That’s why they were ratcheted up. That’s precisely the point. I don’t think anybody in America is yet talking about putting troops in there. Nobody’s talking about military. The point is that we’re trying to do this in a thoughtful way with the maximum amount of diplomatic energy and pressure, and it would help enormously if some countries in Europe that have been a little reluctant to move would now recognize this wakeup call and join the United States and President Obama in taking the lead and also stepping up. That’s important.

QUESTION: And Mr. Secretary, I have to let you go, but I can’t without asking you about Israel, which has now expanded, it says, its attack into Gaza to try to stop the missiles from coming into Israel. We all know that the U.S. believes in Israel’s right to defend itself. Are there, in your mind, any line after which you think Israel has gone too far? Have those discussions taken place at all?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, the President talked to Prime Minister Netanyahu Friday. I talked to Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday. The President’s talking to him again today. We’re in constant conversations. And I believe the President is asking me to go over there in very short order to work on the issue of a ceasefire. I was in touch yesterday with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. We’ve agreed to meet at a certain time. We’re working on the idea of a ceasefire.

Israel is under siege by a terrorist organization that has seen fit to dig tunnels and come through those tunnels with handcuffs and tranquilizer drugs, prepared to try to capture Israeli citizens and take them back to hold them hostage. No country could sit by and not take steps to try to deal with people who are sending thousands of rockets your way, literally in the middle of a conversation both with the President and with me. While we were talking to the prime minister, sirens went off. The prime minister of Israel had to interrupt the conversation with the President of the United States to go to a shelter. People can’t live that way.

And Hamas needs to understand we are supporting the Egyptian initiative for a ceasefire. We will work for a fair ceasefire and we will work afterwards, as we have shown our willingness to try to deal with the underlying issues. But they must step up and show a level of reasonableness and they need to accept the offer of a ceasefire, and then we will certainly discuss all of the issues relevant to the underlying crisis. No country has indicated a greater willingness to do that, and no president’s been more willing to put himself on the line in recent time to do that than President Obama.

QUESTION: So as I understand it, what you are saying is that the U.S. is comfortable with Israeli actions thus far --


QUESTION: -- but you would like to see a ceasefire?

SECRETARY KERRY: Candy – Candy, please. No country, no human being is comfortable with children being killed, with people being killed, but we’re not comfortable with Israeli soldiers being killed either, or with people being rocketed in Israel. So in war, it’s very difficult. There tends not to be a sort of equilibrium in terms of these things. The fact is that we’ve asked Israel and Israel has said we will try to reduce whatever we can with respect to civilian involvement, and civilians have been warned to move well ahead of time. The fact is that Hamas uses civilians as shields and they fire from a home and draw the fire into the home, precisely to elicit the kind of question you just asked. We need to have a ceasefire.

QUESTION: Secretary of State Kerry, very much appreciate your time this morning.