CNN "The Lead with Jake Tapper" - Transcript: Russia Military Intervention in Ukraine and the Islamic State


Date: Nov. 12, 2014
Issues: Foreign Affairs


Here to discuss this and other national security challenges facing this country, the chairman of the House Select Intelligence Committee, Republican Congressman Mike Rogers.

Congressman, good to see you, as always.

What have you been told in briefings about Russia maneuvering these nuclear-capable bombers into Crimea?

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), CHAIR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, we have no confirmation. I have seen no confirmation that there is any nuclear activity weapon wise in Crimea from the Russians.

I think a lot of what you're seeing is, again, their really focused attempt to destabilize Ukraine. And really what they're trying to do is two things, Jake. One is to prevent any interest in NATO -- or becoming a NATO country, number one, and, number two, to make sure that there's no Western investment interest in Ukraine.

And they have scored wins on both of those. So every time you see this turmoil, I always say take it with a grain of salt. There's a little bit of information operation campaign going on. There's a little bit of truth. There's a little bit of military movement.

And, again, their sole purpose, I think, at this point is to show destabilization for a period of time, especially going into the winter months, which would advantage Russia when it comes to the energy.

TAPPER: From what you're hearing, do you think it's likely that another Russian annexation of Ukraine, this time Eastern Ukraine, is imminent, like what we saw in Crimea earlier?

ROGERS: I don't believe it's imminent. A., I'm not sure they want to own it.

One of the things that we were concerned is all the way along the east, most of the rocket systems that the Russians used in their weaponry for rockets, including some of the nuclear arsenal, were produced in Eastern Ukraine. We believe that they had certainly wanted to work to make sure that they had that within their realm of control. We think that they have done that.

And now you have again this continued destabilization effort. I'm not sure he actually wants to own it because he doesn't want the financial burden of trying to take care of Eastern Ukraine.

I think he's playing a very -- Putin is playing a very fine line here about, again, continued destabilization. He's going to try to take the resources of which he thinks is valuable in Eastern Ukraine. And this nuclear talk I think is just Russia beating its chest. If you have noticed what they have done around the world, including their aircraft buzzing U.S. airspace, certainly encroaching into NATO airspace., we have seen ports of call all over the world with their Russian naval forces we hadn't seen in a very long time, I think this is Putin flexing his muscles at a time that he thinks there's at least confusion in U.S. policy.

TAPPER: The intelligence community offers psychological profiles of world leaders like Putin. What do these profiles say about him? Do they say when they anticipate he will stop grabbing land, if ever? What do they think is the best way to stop him?

ROGERS: Well, again, we have to look at where he is, where we think he should be, where he thinks he should be.

Sometimes, the big saying in the intelligence community is, the Russians look like us, but they don't think like us. A few years ago, he his big -- he had three really big objectives, one, to keep Georgia out of NATO, two, to keep Ukraine out of NATO and leaning West, and pushing back on missile defense.

Well, in his mind now, he's three for three. Remember the pullout of the forward-placed radar systems in both Poland and the Czech Republic. He occupies about 20 percent of the land in the country of Georgia. And they're fortifying that. They're actually digging in and making permanent military structures there.

And now you see clearly what's happening in Ukraine. So in his mind, his foreign policy, his strategy about pushing back on U.S. and Western influences there is working and his national polling back home is off the charts. So this is very successful for him, and that's where he's looking for his next move.

That's why I don't think he -- I think he's smart enough not to bite off more than he can chew in Ukraine and I don't think he will go to the full annexation, at least yet. I don't think he will -- he may do that, but I don't think he will do it just yet.

TAPPER: Let's turn to ISIS, if we can.

Our Elise Labott here at CNN is reporting that President Obama has asked his national security team for a complete review of the American policy toward Syria, including how to remove Assad. I guess my question is, is, there really a viable alternative to Assad or has ISIS and Assad together from opposite sides already frayed whatever moderate resistance there is?

ROGERS: Well, there are still some pockets of hope here.

Again, if you would have had a plan -- if we'd had this review and a full, inclusive discussion three years ago, lots of options on the table, two years ago, not so many, six months ago, not that many. Today, it's just awful. But we still have an obligation here to try to put this thing back together.

I think, you remember, there are rebels who are getting up in the morning and fighting the regime. They're taking casualties from al- Nusra, an al Qaeda organization. And they're taking casualties from ISIS, all within the same week.

These are folks that we can build relationships with. These are folks we can identify to help train and put on a target going east. If Assad were to go today, I'll tell you -- again, I was very early about trying to have an aggressive solution with Assad, hopefully a diplomatic one through muscular diplomacy -- that we missed that window.

Now if he goes today, we are going to have mass chaos there. You have Hezbollah militia units there who are operating in the open for Assad. You have all of al-Nusra, an al Qaeda organization, gaining strength. You have ISIS, which used to be an al Qaeda affiliate. They're obviously huge and control land the size of Indiana, armed systems, helicopters.

It is a cauldron of disaster when it comes to terrorism activity there. There is a window still here, but we're going have to be smart about what we do. It might mean that we have some of our special capability soldiers on the ground in Syria helping focus the fight.

If we can get there, I think we can prevent a wider problem. If we can't even get there, which we haven't been able to yet, I think we're going to have a wider problem to deal with.

TAPPER: All right, Congressman Mike Rogers, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

ROGERS: Thanks, Jake.