The following is a transcript of an interview with Kurt Walker, former NATO Ambassador and Special Representative of Ukraine, which aired on Sunday, March 6, 2022, on Face of the Nation.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Now Kurt Walker has joined us. He was a former US Ambassador to Ukraine and a former US Ambassador to NATO, and now he is joining us. Thank you for participating in the program. You sought the introduction of a no-fly zone over Ukraine. NATO says this is not the case. The United States is by no means, like, no combat troops because President Biden says it will lead to World War III. Why is he wrong?
Former US Ambassador to NATO KURT WALKER: Well, I think there are ways to do that that mitigate those risks, if not – do not eliminate the risk, but mitigate the risk of direct conflict with Russia. First, I think we need to recognize that the casualties among the civilian population and the horrific scenes we have just seen will get worse. They will not recover. Massive air strikes will be inflicted on Kyiv and other cities, and it will be absolutely destructive. So if we can prevent this from a humanitarian point of view, I think we should try. And the way to do that, which I would recommend, is to clarify humanitarian goals. We limit the scope geographically to Kiev and Western Ukraine, so do not approach Russia’s borders. We make it clear that we will fire only in the event of shelling of any ground targets. We are not in order to beat anything. We make it clear to the Russian military that we will not strike at their planes and helicopters as long as they remain outside the zone. And there are rules of conduct in hostilities, in which our Air Force and others are very good, take people out of the area without fire, if they are not fired upon. And I think we are using all these things to try to create a safe space for the civilian population.
MARGARET BRENAN: So other former ambassadors to NATO have publicly argued that this is unrealistic because you will have to endure Russian systems not only in Ukraine but also far-reaching within Russia. That’s how you go to war.
AMB. VOLKER: You don’t do that because it puts us directly into a fight. Russia does not want us to take part in the struggle, and I think we are allowing Putin to get into our heads and deter us from protecting civilians, not considering that he does not want the United States or other countries to support Ukraine.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So if the ultimate diplomatic goal is to stop the carnage and stop the war, how do you get Vladimir Putin to back down? Who can really do that? Because the Germans tried, the French tried, the Israelis tried. No one has succeeded. The United States is talking to China. Who can do that?
AMB. VOLKER: The Ukrainian people can do it. There are Ukrainian people. They are determined. They are fighting. We are lucky that we should not be able to fight Putin or try to stop him. The Ukrainian people are ready for this, and therefore it is very important that we provide them with all possible support and assistance.
MARGARET BRENNAN: When you say it will be even worse, I mean that the French president has shown that this is basically what Vladimir Putin told him. Tell us which scenario the public needs to prepare for. Because NATO is already saying that cluster bombs are being used. You hear incredible accusations from the Ukrainian government about what is happening. United States intelligence reports are compiling lists of people to be sent to the camp. Is this a scenario where you can see someone sitting and negotiating an exit?
AMB. WALKER: Absolutely not, no. It must be understood that Putin is striving for military victory. He wants to destroy Ukraine, behead the leadership. He does not care how much sacrifice it makes to the civilian population. This is the messianic mission he is engaged in. That’s why it needs to be stopped. And again, we can do something to help the Ukrainians. I am very glad to hear that Secretary Blinken said that we are now giving the green light by plane from Poland to Ukraine. We need to provide some of our own A-10 aircraft that we are willing to put into storage. There are trained Ukrainian pilots who use them. We need to look for more funds to get more support faster. The UN High Commissioner has just said that they need quiet areas inside Ukraine. In the west of Ukraine there are areas where there are no Russian battles. We could try to create these quiet zones to help. Much more we could do.
MARGARET BRENAN: Is there the political will to do that? You served in the Trump administration. Former Vice President Pence said Friday that “the Republican Party has no place for Putin’s apologists.” It’s unusual that he had to say that.
AMB. WALKER: Yes, yes. We heard it in our media. We have heard this from some politicians here. But I think you also heard from Adam Schiff. In Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as among experts and national security figures here in the country, there is incredible bipartisan unity. Everyone sees what Putin is doing. No – there is no support for this. Full support of Ukraine. The only question is how far we are going to help Ukraine.
MARGARET BRENAN: Was the former president an apologist for Putin? That’s what the vice president said.
AMB. FOLKER: Well, I’m not going to pass judgment. We heard what he said. You know, he said that Putin acts wisely, intelligently. I mean, this is not the message you want to send. The message you want to send is that he is acting irresponsibly, inhumanely, killing people in an unjustified war, and we must be on the side of the Ukrainians to help them.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you, Ambassador, for joining us today. We’ll be back soon.