Transcript: H.R. McMaster on "Face the Nation," March 19, 2023

The following is a transcript of an interview with H.R. McMaster,former national security adviser in the Trump White House and a CBS News contributor, that aired on "Face the Nation" on Sunday, March 19, 2023.

MARGARET BRENNAN:We turn now to former national security adviser retired general H.R. McMaster, who joins us from Palo Alto, California. I want to talk about Russia and China with you, but first, stability in this country. The former president, who you worked for, has issued this call for protests. How concerned are you about security and what it means for the country?

LT. GENERAL H.R. MCMASTER: Well, of course, Margaret, what I'm hoping for is that Americans come to their senses and recognize that we have strong institutions and should have confidence in the due process of law. And I think that's what you're seeing play out here. Nobody's above the law. And I hope Americans really recognize that what's not, not- not appropriate at this stage is any kind of violence, but but really to demand the best from our institutions to ensure that they're insulated from any kind of political interference, but to have to have confidence, you know, that, you know, if the President is, you know, as rumored to be indicted, that he will have the opportunity to defend himself against these charges.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we will be following that. When it comes to your wheelhouse on the national security front, we just saw these images of Vladimir Putin defiantly traveling to Ukraine. His first known trip to the occupied Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, the Kremlin made a point to say he visited children's centers. This is days after an arrest warrant was issued on charges of abducting and deporting Ukrainian children forcibly to Russia. How do you interpret this?


LT. GENERAL H.R. MCMASTER: Well, I think this is a moment of clarity. I mean, look at just the- the brazen cynicism associated with him going to Sevastopol, which he illegally annexed in 2014 and then to Mariupol, going there at night. You know, visiting sites - the few sites - you know, that hadn't been rumbled, you know, by- by the Russian military as they inflicted murder on innocent people in Mariupol. And as you mentioned, you know, he's just been indicted by the International Criminal Court for kidnapping, you know, tens of thousands of Ukrainian children. And, of course, this is all on the eve of Xi Jinping, you know, visiting Putin. So, I think what you're seeing is really quite clearly this axis of authoritarians, who are a real threat to- to- to freedom and to civilized people around the world.

MARGARET BRENNAN: China, we should also know is accused by the U.S. government of actively conducting genocide against minorities in country. Do you think it gives any pause to Xi Jinping, when he boards that flight to Moscow that Vladimir Putin was- just had his arrest warrant issued?

LT. GENERAL H.R. MCMASTER: You know, sadly, Margaret, I don't think so. Remember, it's really 10 years ago, almost to the day that Xi Jinping made his first visit to Moscow and they declared their special friendship. Since then they've just continued to double down on this relationship. Remember, just before the Beijing Olympics last year, just prior to the reinvasion of Ukraine, on February 24, they professed their partnership with no limits. And he's visiting- he's visiting Moscow at a time when it's become clear from U.S. government reports and from investigative journalists, that China is supplying weapons, munitions, all kinds of other support for Putin, as he continues this onslaught against Ukrainian people. This, of course, is economic support, China has increased their purchase of Russian oil by 60 percent and they're buying more natural gas. They're providing all sorts of technological capabilities that are important to sustaining Russia's war-making machine.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The U.S. government admits they know, surveillance footage or things used for enhancing targeting in the battlefield is being sold by Chinese companies, but they say no lethal support yet has happened. You're saying you don't believe that?

LT. GENERAL H.R. MCMASTER: I don't believe that. I think what you're going to see in the coming days and weeks is more and more evidence of Chinese support. You know, the Chinese doesn't want to get caught doing this, right? Because at the same time, as they're helping the Russians murder Ukrainians, they're also saying, hey, China's open for business. And they're trying to appeal- appeal to American and other investors to continue to prop up their statist mercantilist model, even as they commit genocide, even as Xi Jinping, just in the in the recent People's Congress last week, he gave really four speeches, essentially preparing the Chinese people for war. I mean, these were jingoistic speeches, he also made it clear that the security economy is going to dominate, you know, over the free market economy or the tech sector. And so I think it's time for us really to assess the degree to which we have been over many years underwriting in many ways, our own demise, you know, with investments in China and really not doing more to shore-up you know, shore-up fragile supply chains, we've essentially given an authoritarian regime, coercive power over our economy–

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you–

LT. GENERAL H.R. MCMASTER: –much like Europe did with Russia on hydrocarbons.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about Republican Governor Chris Sununu wrote an op-ed saying, "some of the Republican Party have lost their moral compass on foreign policy evidenced by former President Trump, who once called Putin's invasion, genius and savvy." The governor of Florida has said similar things that appear to be diminishing the importance of the conflict. What do you make of the fact that the top two contenders for president in the Republican Party are pushing this?

LT. GENERAL H.R. MCMASTER: Well, I think it's sad, Margaret. I think you know, why not just- just focus on two things. Look at how valorous the Ukrainians have been fighting for their own freedom, that should restore confidence maybe in our own nation, and the gift that we have of being free and having freedom of expression, and freedom from fear. You know, I think also look at just the atrocities that have been visited on the Ukrainian people, and then also recognize that it's in our interest, you know, where's it stop? You know, Putin went to Sevastopol, which he annexed in 2014–


LT. GENERAL H.R. MCMASTER: –And of course, there's a direct line between that and the–


LT. GENERAL H.R. MCMASTER: –I think if we are not strong–

MARGARET BRENNAN: –I've got to leave it here.

LT. GENERAL H.R. MCMASTER: Thanks Margaret

MARGARET BRENNAN: I appreciate your analysis. We'll be right back.

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