Interview With Bob Schieffer of CBS's Face the Nation
Secretary of State
QUESTION: The Secretary of State John Kerry joins us now from Boston. Mr. Secretary, thank you so much, and I want to start with a bottom-line question: Do we have definitive proof that the Russians were directly involved in the downing of this airliner?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Bob, when you say definitive proof the Russian – the investigation is going to draw conclusions that are “definitive.” What we have is a lot of evidence that points in a direction that raises very, very serious questions, including the fact that a few weeks ago, we have a 150-vehicle convoy coming from Russia, going into the east of Ukraine with tanks, artillery, multiple rocket launchers, armored personnel carriers turned over to the separatists. We know that there are Russian leader – Russians who are leaders of the separatists – some, not all, some. And we know that the Russians have armed the separatists, trained the separatists, support the separatists, and have to date, not publicly called on the separatists to stand down or to be part of this solution.
We know that from our own imagery, we see that an SA-11, which is what we have assessed this to be the type of surface-to-air missile because of the altitude – the plane was at 33,000 feet. We know they had an SA-11 right in the vicinity hours before this shoot. The social media has documented this. We know that immediately after the shoot, the social media documented the self-proclaimed defense minister of the People’s Republic of Donetsk, as they call it. He was bragging on the social media about shooting down a transport plane. And then when people learned it was a civilian aircraft, they pulled that off of the social media. We have intercepted voices that have been documented by our people through intelligence as being separatists who are talking to each other about the shoot-down. And we know that – we have a video now of a transporter removing an SA-11 system back into Russia, and it shows a missing missile or so.
So there’s enormous amount of evidence, even more evidence than I just documented, that points to the involvement of Russia in providing these systems, training the people on them. We know that the separatists have shot down 12 aircraft in the last couple of months, among them two transport planes. But the evidence is quite enormous.
QUESTION: Well --
SECRETARY KERRY: Here’s what’s currently bothering everybody: Drunken separatists have been piling bodies into trucks and removing them from the site. We only had 75 minutes of access to the site on Friday, three hours of access yesterday, despite Mr. Putin and Russia saying they were going to make every effort to make sure there would be a full and fair investigation, thorough, and the site would be protected.
Because of Russia’s linkage to these separatists, they have a greater ability to exert influence, and we need Russia to become part of the solution, not part of the problem.
QUESTION: Well, what else do we need to know after hearing what you have just outlined here? What else?
SECRETARY KERRY: We need an investigation, not the Secretary of State just listing the things that we do know, but a full investigation with international investigators, with their trained personnel, with the people who can put all of the evidence together and draw the appropriate conclusions so that we don’t have a he-said-she-said, finger-pointing back-and-forth. People will draw their own conclusions. The evidence is there. But we need a full access to this site in order to conduct a thorough investigation.
QUESTION: Well, what – if it does come down to yes, the Russians are responsible for this, then what should the United States do? What should our response be?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, there are many things that are options and are already options, Bob. We’re in conversation now with our European counterparts. We hope this is a wakeup call for some countries in Europe that have been reluctant to move. President Obama took steps unilaterally. He took them on his own the day before this event. And he imposed very tough new sanctions in the banking sector, in the energy sector, in the defense sector, and there are still other sanctions that could be put in place if it was necessary. Our hope is that President Putin will put the actions behind his words, that we can join together in order to help end this separatist effort, bring them into the politics of Ukraine, and try to help Ukraine to be able to move forward.
And incidentally, in the last months, we’ve been successful in having in an election in Ukraine, having a new president, in being able to have a new government formed. This deserves the support of Russia to be able to build a peaceful, not confrontational and separatist insurgency, but to create a peaceful process to be able to have a Ukraine whose sovereignty is respected and where it is not a pawn in some unnecessary struggle between east and west.
We’ve said to Russia, “We want Ukraine to be a bridge between the east and the west and it can look in both directions.” But the way Russia is currently playing this dual-track policy – say one thing, do another – is really threatening both the larger interests as well as that region and threatening Ukraine itself.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, let me shift to the situation in Israel. Hamas on their website are now taking credit for killing 14 Israeli soldiers in this latest ground action in the Gaza. Can you confirm that? Do we know if there have been Israeli casualties?
SECRETARY KERRY: I think there were some casualties reported a little while ago, Bob, but it’s not up to me to be reporting Israeli casualties. It’s up to – that will be done in the proper course and process, but let me say this: Israel is responding to an intransigent Hamas that was offered a ceasefire and didn’t want to take it. We support the Egyptian effort to have a ceasefire, which Israel joined into, which does not have preconditions, and then there is a promise of sitting down and dealing with those underlying issues that need to be dealt with.
But Hamas is trying to insist that as a reward for their terrorist behavior, things be decided ahead of time, and we support Israel and the international community’s right not to be extorted by terrorism.
QUESTION: Are you going to --
SECRETARY KERRY: The --
QUESTION: Let me just ask you this.
SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Are you planning to go out there to try to --
SECRETARY KERRY: I am planning --
QUESTION: -- do what you can to increase the chances of a ceasefire?
SECRETARY KERRY: I am planning to go, and probably very shortly. The President and I have talked about this as recently as two day – a day and a half ago. We’re supposed to be in touch again today. It may be that he’ll ask me to leave immediately. But we have been working very closely with all of the parties and in touch with them, and I think if the President deems that this is the moment that is appropriate, obviously, we’ll go immediately. But I think there are conversations taking place today with Prime Minister Netanyahu and others, and hopefully we’ll have a decision in short order.
QUESTION: All right. Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for joining us this morning.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, sir.
QUESTION: Thank you.