Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the round Tuesday on the flagship morning news shows of ABC, CBS, and NBC and, as we saw in May with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and in 2022 with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Vice President Kamala Harris, NBC’s Today co-host Savannah Guthrie stood apart in repeatedly holding Blinken’s feet to the fire on President Biden’s support for Ukraine against Russia.
In contrast, ABC’s Good Morning America and CBS Mornings not only had more abbreviated taped interviews, but the questions from ABC co-host (and former Clinton official) George Stephanopoulos and CBS co-host (and Democratic donor) Gayle King were pedestrian.
After an easy lead-off (since the answer is no) about whether Ukraine will “get” the “invitation to join NATO” they desperately want from President Biden, Guthrie’s follow-up brought the heat:
[I]f the alliance’s position is no NATO membership until the war ends, does that not just incentivize Russia to keep it going and going and going since the very thing it fears is that Ukraine will be welcomed by NATO?
Blinken waffled, instead insisting “what [Russia] claims it fears is a stronger, bigger, and more united alliance and that’s what we’ve already seen with” Finland and Sweden joining NATO and is already a message that Russia “can’t outlast us,” Ukraine, and Ukraine’s allies.
Guthrie moved to the U.S. giving Ukraine cluster munitions and how its denounced by both “many, many countries” and even the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Linda Thomas Greenfield (click “expand”):
GUTHRIE: The U.S. announced it will provide so-called cluster munitions to Ukraine. As you well know, these bombs are controversial because they can explode later and after a war, after a conflict, and hurt civilians. And, in fact, they’re banned by more than 100 countries. Our own U.N. Ambassador said last year such bombs have, “no place on the battlefield.” How do you justify it now?
BLINKEN: It comes down to this — that every step along the way we tried to make sure Ukraine had what it needed to defend itself and retake its territory. It was running low and indeed running the risk of running out of the munitions in its inventories and inventories around the world were low. We’re working to build up the production of the munitions that its been using. In the meantime to fill the gap to make sure it doesn’t run out, to make sure it can continue to defend itself, the President made the hard but necessary decision to provide cluster munitions and this is a stopgap to get them to a new place where new production comes online. The Russians have saturated Ukraine with cluster munitions and there’s a big difference between what the Russians have done in Ukraine using these cluster munitions against the Ukrainian people as opposed to the Ukrainian government, which, in defense of its country, in defense of its own people, needs these weapons to make sure that it can resist the Russian aggression and take back its territory. They’re going to be very focused on where they use them, making sure, of course, they’re not targeting their own civilians and we’re all deeply committed to cleaning up the country once the aggression ends, something we have to do anyway given the munitions the Russians have used over the last few years.
GUTHRIE: But taking a step back here, I mean, the U.S. — I — understand the argument saying, look, this is a temporary solution — this is a backstop because Ukraine is running low on munitions. However, this war has been going on for 500 days. The west has sent billions of dollars to Ukraine. How do you find yourself in this position where you’re essentially out of ammo and having to resort to this highly controversial weapon that is banned by many, many countries, including allies?
BLINKEN: Well, first, take a step back. 16 months ago, Russia was on the doorsteps of Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. It was working to take over the entire country, to topple its government, to erase Ukraine from the map, to end its independence, to subsume Ukraine into Russia. That has failed and it’s has failed because of the incredible courage of the Ukrainian people. It’s also failed because of the very strong support from country after country. Everything has gotten pushed to the east and the south. Ukraine’s working to get more of its land back that Russia ‘s taken from it. We’re in the fight with them. And it’s vitally important that they do everything they can to succeed. But, in terms of what Russia was trying to do, its already failed and now we want to make sure that Ukraine can do as much as it possibly can to recover territory that remains in Russian hands.
Guthrie zoomed out to Russia’s unprovoked war writ large, but instead of merely asking him to analyze the state of the war, she asked how he sees this “coming to an end” and “get[ting] the two sides to the table” “when you have — certainly, we know Russia’s position, but also Ukrainian’s position, which is we’re not giving back one inch of territory, including the Crimean peninsula.”
After Blinken insisted Ukraine would have global support “as long as it takes,” Guthrie ended with the failed mutiny by Wagner Group and Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Shifting to ABC, Stephanopoulos’s first of five questions began with a softball: “Let’s begin with that green light to Sweden’s membership to nato. How important a break through is this?”
His second was even more benign: “When will [Ukraine] be ready [to join NATO]? What kind of assurances can you give them coming out of this summit?”
The third stated the obvious: “Is — is the real concern right now that allowing Ukraine into NATO right now would put us even more directly into conflict with Russia?”
His final two questions more directly dealt with the war in asking him to judge the state of the Ukrainian counteroffensive and what he thought about reports that Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin actually met Russian dictator Vladimir Putin days after the former attempted a mutiny against the latter.
CBS’s portion was even shorter. King also started with Sweden and NATO: “What message do you think that this will send to Russia? What message do you want it to send, if any?”
King stuck to the script, moving to Ukraine and NATO: “What will it take for the administration’s point of view for Ukraine to be ready? I know I’ve heard you all say when the war is over. Is that it?”
She later wrapped with questions about Wagner and then one about imprisoned Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich (click “expand”):
You know, there are some confusing headlines coming out of Russia right now. We just heard recently that the head of the Wagner Group, Prigozhin met with Putin five days after the alleged mutiny. How is this man still alive in your opinion? We haven’t heard from him in the last couple of days. How is he still alive?
Before you go, we want to get an update from you if you can about Wall Street [sic] reporter, Evan Gershkovich. You know, we’re all very worried about him. We hear that Russia — we’ve heard Russia may be open to a swap. A, is that true? And if so, what can you tell us about that?