MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC HOST: Our thanks to the crew of the USS Maine. We should note, the Navy did screen on video before we left the submarine to ensure no images contained classified material.
And now joining me is Admiral Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs. You know what happens on those submarines. You know about our nuclear arsenal. Clearly, the U.S. wants Russia and North Korea to remember what the U.S. has in its arsenal.
But do you think there is a possibility that Vladimir Putin would actually use a nuclear weapon, even a small tactical nuclear weapon?
ADM. MIKE MULLEN, FORMER CHAIR, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: It’s very difficult to know what Putin is thinking at any particular time. He’s obviously spoken to this. I think we need to make sure that we consider it as a possibility, both a tactical and a, God forbid, the strategic force that — we have it there to deter both he and China and others that might get nuclear weapons. And I certainly hope that that deterrence works. They’re the most devastating weapons ever created on Earth.
We should remind that as the country that’s actually used them in the 1940s, how devastating they are and do everything we possibly can to make sure that they don’t get used. But they are a part of Putin’s arsenal. He’s pretty well cornered and boxed in so we would certainly to have to consider it’s a possible — it’s a possible action he can take.
RADDATZ: And you’ve heard this (inaudible) again, but you’ve also heard warnings that if Finland and Sweden join NATO, Russia would deploy nuclear weapons to the region. Those countries have now officially applied. Does this raise the level of concern?
MULLEN: Actually I was a little — I was — I was encouraged a little bit when Putin said the other day that as long as they weren’t a threat, per se, that he would — would not object. What strikes me about Finland and Sweden is how deeply neutral they had been for decades and decades and how concerned they obviously are with this threat that has now been generated by Putin. And so I’m encouraged by that. I’m encouraged by the unity of NATO.
Almost every European I’ve spoken to considers the threat in Europe now existential to them and I think that speaks to the move on the part of both Sweden and Finland and I’m encouraged by that. I don’t think that it will cause a nuclear action on the part of Putin, at this particular point.
RADDATZ: And the Russians — let’s move to Ukraine. The Russians did have some successes this week. Mariupol —
RADDATZ: — finally fell to them, after months of fighting. How significant a victory do you think that is? And is this just going to be incremental for months to come?
MULLEN: I’ve said from the beginning I think this is going to be a long slog with Putin. He’s very focused out east now after what has been a disaster in other parts of the country. I think initially he really did want to take Kyiv, overturn the government, put a puppet in as a leader and he’s not going to be able to do that right now. But I think he is going to do everything he possibly can to lose as little in the East as possible.
President Zelenskyy’s been pretty clear, he wants that territory as well. So I think we’re in for a long one. It’s going to be bloody. It’s going to be visible. It’s going to be what war is. I think we’ll see Putin continue to devastate the infrastructure, with respect to how he approaches it, the long-range weapons. I think what we’ve done to supply them has been extraordinary, quite frankly. And we need to continue to do that.
RADDATZ: Mark Milley, the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke to his Russian counterpart Thursday for the first time since February — since February 11th. (Inaudible) Austin (ph) spoke to his counterpart. How encouraging is that and were you surprised by that? Russians at first had no contact.
MULLEN: No, I wasn’t — actually, I wasn’t surprised by it. I had worried that we had no communications with Russia at any level from presidency on down to the military. So I am encouraged that those communication channels are back open. I think those are critical to make sure that we don’t miscalculate and that we —
RADDATZ: But —
MULLEN: — have a way to communicate.
RADDATZ: What does it mean —
MULLEN: I —
RADDATZ: — that they’re talking?
MULLEN: Well, it’s hard to know. It’s a big step in terms of being able to talk about how we get to — how we continue, if you will, in this fight. And hopefully, it’s the start of a path to get to some diplomatic outcome here. All wars have to end. We need to be thinking more and more about what does that mean, what’s on both sides, what if — what’s okay, so that this is contained as opposed to exploding into a massive Holocaust for, not just the region, but for the world.
RADDATZ: And let’s turn to North Korea. President Biden is overseas on his first trip to Asia, of course, with threats (ph) that North Korea is going to test another nuclear weapon, launch a ballistic missile, in a test. Where are we now with North Korea? It’s gone on for decades and decades, no one gets anywhere (ph) —
MULLEN: Well, I think about it — it’s déjà vu all over again, from his father and his grandfather as well as Kim Jong-un himself. So there’s no easy answer here. I believed for a long time this — the solution here must go through Beijing and our relationship with China is worsening so that makes it — solving this more difficult. I’m encouraged by the president’s trip. I’m encouraged by the time he spent in North Korea. And I know he just arrived in Japan —
RADDATZ: In South Korea.
MULLEN: In South Korea, sorry. And I’m encouraged by the fact that they’re working together and that trilateral piece – Japan, South Korea, and the U.S. — working together is really critical. In addition to Australia, he’s going to meet this week with the leaders of the Quad, which include India. And so I think the president’s visit, in that regard, is really critical, to try to contain what continues to be a real challenge in North Korea with his development in nuclear weapons —
RADDATZ: And if you will just very quickly, on this baby formula. Baby formula being flown over by the U.S. Military. I can’t imagine you ever expected something like that —
MULLEN: Well, I’m —
MULLEN: — I’m so encouraged by what our troops have been able to do. So a C-17 that could fly howitzers (ph) into Germany to support Ukraine, turns around and flies 71,000 pounds of baby formula —
RADDATZ: And get it out —
RADDATZ: — once they get —
MULLEN: — in two days — in two days land in Indiana. I think tests (ph) briefly. I hope the testing by the FDA doesn’t last too long and we distribute it as rapidly as possible.
RADDATZ: We all hope the same. It’s so great to see you, Admiral Mullen.
MULLEN: Thanks, Martha.
RADDATZ: Thanks for joining us.
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