The following is a transcript of an interview with White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan that aired Sunday, September 25, 2022 on “Face the Nation.”

MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re going now to White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. Good morning to you, Jake. Thank you for joining us.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan: Thank you for having me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: President Zelensky told us that if this annexation were to happen, it would make diplomatic negotiations with Vladimir Putin impossible. They need artillery in Ukraine, he says, more air defense equipment and tanks. Will they get it? And how significant is this escalation?

SULLIVAN: Well, Margaret, not only will they get it, but they’ve been getting it. The United States alone has so far provided more than $15 billion worth of weapons, and that includes air defense systems, hundreds of artillery guns, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of artillery rounds. And we facilitated the transfer of tanks from NATO allies who have Soviet-era tanks on which the Ukrainians trained, and we will continue to do all this. As President Biden made clear on Friday, nothing that Russia has done with this troop mobilization, with the sham referendums in the occupied regions, will stop us from providing Ukraine with the tools and technology it needs to defend itself. And what Putin has done is not exactly a sign of strength or confidence, frankly, it’s a sign that the Russian side is fighting hard. And we will help Ukrainians take advantage of the gains they have made and continue to fight back against Russian forces that are brutally occupying parts of their country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yesterday, Putin replaced one of his top logistics generals with a man known as the “Butcher of Mariupol.” Are we witnessing the beginning of the collapse of the Russian army?

SULLIVAN: I think it’s too early to make such sweeping predictions. I think what we are seeing are signs of incredible fighting among the Russians, you have low morale when soldiers don’t want to fight. And who can blame them because they don’t want to participate in Putin’s war of conquest in their neighboring country. You have Russia, which has exhausted its stockpile of precision munitions. Your Russia is disorganized and losing territory to a capable Ukrainian force. And you have a tremendous amount of infighting among the Russian military leadership, and now the blame game has started to include these replacements. So Russia is fighting back, but Russia is still a dangerous enemy and capable of great brutality, as we saw with those mass burials outside Izium. As such, we continue to take this threat seriously. And we still see it as our duty to provide Ukraine with everything it needs so that it can effectively defend itself, defend its country and defend its freedom. This is what we intend to do. And we don’t take our eyes off the ball.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Vladimir Putin will carry out this annexation of eastern Ukraine within the next few days. When Russia expands its nuclear umbrella over this part of the country. Does this put the US in more direct conflict with Russia? And does the nuclear weapon used there bring Russia into direct conflict with the US and NATO?

SULLIVAN: We made it absolutely clear to President Biden, including that we do not recognize fake referendums, they in no way represent the will of the Ukrainian people. And we will treat this territory as the territory of Ukraine, not Russia. And we will continue to support the Ukrainians in their efforts to de-occupy this territory. So we have made it clear that we are not going to stop or slow down our support for the Ukrainians, no matter what Putin tries to do with these fake elections, fake referendums and annexation. Now, when it comes to the use of nuclear weapons, President Putin has waved the nuclear card at various points in this conflict over the past few days – not for the first time –

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MARGARET BRENNAN: But he wasn’t as cornered as he is now.

SULLIVAN: That’s true, and it’s an issue that we have to take deadly seriously because it’s an issue of the utmost seriousness — the possible use of nuclear weapons for the first time since World War II. We told the Kremlin directly, privately, at a very high level, that any use of nuclear weapons would be met with catastrophic consequences for Russia, that the United States and our allies would respond decisively. And we clearly and specifically indicated what this would entail. We have been equally clear publicly in principle that the United States will respond decisively if Russia uses nuclear weapons, and that we will continue to support Ukraine in its efforts to defend its country and protect its democracy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: For the last 24 hours, Russia has been talking more about this nuclear plant than about nuclear weapons. Where does it fall? Is this an escalation of the threat?

SULLIVAN: So for your audience, there’s a nuclear power plant that’s in the Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine. It was put into cold shutdown mode to reduce the chance of some catastrophic incident happening at the plant. In fact, it is still operated by Ukrainian operators, who are under the sights of the Russian occupation forces. And the Russians are constantly hinting that there might be an accident at this plant. We are working with the International Atomic Energy Agency and with Ukrainian energy regulators to try to make sure there is no threat from a meltdown or anything else at the plant. We’ll continue to do that, but it’s something we all have to keep a close eye on.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Jake, you’re a busy man watching the world. I want to ask you many things, but I have to ask you about Iran. And these protests, which were led by women, after the death of this 22-year-old woman who, according to the moral police, did not have her hair properly covered. She died. How significant is that, and does it make you reconsider the proposal you put on the table to lift sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program?

SULLIVAN: Well, first of all, Margaret, the fact that we’re negotiating with Iran about its nuclear program in no way affects our willingness and persistence to speak out about what’s happening on the streets of Iran. President Biden took to the floor of the UN General Assembly and said that we stand with the brave citizens and brave women of Iran as they stand up for their rights and their dignity. In fact, we have taken significant steps to sanction the morality police –


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SULLIVAN: – who caused the death of Mahsa Amini. We have taken steps to make it easier for Iranians to access the Internet and communications technology that will enable them to communicate with each other and the world. So, from our point of view, we will do everything we can to support the brave men, the brave women of Iran –

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MARGARET BRENNAN: But I was asking you about the proposal to lift sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, because that would allow the regime to have a financial lifeline.

SULLIVAN: Well, I think it’s important for everyone to understand that at the height of the Cold War, when Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire” —

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MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes. Arms control.

SULLIVAN: — he also negotiated arms control with Russia. So that’s what we’re talking about here. We are talking about diplomacy to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. If we can succeed in this effort, and we are determined to succeed in this effort, the world, America, and our allies will be safer. And this will in no way prevent us from refusing and speaking out about Iran’s brutal repression of its citizens and women. We can and will do both.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay, I understand the offer is still on the table. The strategy has not changed. Jake, thank you so much for your time. We’ll be back soon with more Face the Nation. Stay with us.