The following is a transcript of an interview with HR McMaster, former Trump White House National Security Advisor and 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 HR McMaster, who joins us from Palo Alto, California. I want to talk with you about Russia and China, but first about stability in this country. The former president, for whom you worked, issued this call for protests. How concerned are you about security and what it means for the country?
LT. GENERAL HR MCMASTER: Well, of course, Margaret, what I hope is that the American people will come to their senses and understand that we have strong institutions and that they should have confidence in due process. And I think that’s what you see playing out here. No one is above the law. And I hope that Americans really recognize that what is not, is not — is not appropriate at this stage, is not any kind of violence, but really to demand the best of our institutions to make sure that they are insulated from any political interference, but that they have to you have confidence, you know, that, you know, if the president is, you know, as they say he’s going to be indicted, that he’s going to have an opportunity to defend himself against these charges.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And we’ll be following that. When it comes to your wheelhouse on the national security front, we just saw these pictures of Vladimir Putin defiantly traveling to Ukraine. His first known trip to the occupied Donbass region in eastern Ukraine, the Kremlin said he visited children’s centers. This comes days after an arrest warrant was issued on charges of abducting and deporting Ukrainian children to Russia. How do you interpret this?
LT. GENERAL HR MCMASTER: Well, I think this is a moment of clarity. I mean, just look at that – the cheeky 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 – several sites – you know, it wasn’t, you know, the Russian army, while they were killing innocent people in Mariupol. And as you mentioned, you know, he was just indicted by the International Criminal Court for kidnapping, you know, tens of thousands of Ukrainian children. And, of course, all this is on the eve of Xi Jinping’s visit to Putin. So I think what you’re seeing is really quite clearly this axis of authoritarians, who are a real threat to freedom and civilized people around the world.
MARGARET BRENNAN: China, we should also know that the US government is accusing it of actively carrying out genocide against minorities in the country. Do you think it gives Xi Jinping pause when he boards his flight to Moscow that Vladimir Putin just got an arrest warrant?
LT. GENERAL HR MCMASTER: You know, unfortunately, Margaret, I don’t think so. Remember, it was really 10 years ago, almost to the day when Xi Jinping visited Moscow for the first time and they declared their special friendship. Since then, they have only continued to double down on this relationship. Let’s recall, just before the Olympic Games in Beijing last year, just before the re-invasion of Ukraine, on February 24, they professed their partnership without limits. And he’s visiting – he’s visiting Moscow at a time when reports from the US government and investigative journalists have made it clear that China is supplying weapons, ammunition, all kinds of other support to Putin as he continues this attack on the Ukrainian people. This is, of course, economic support, China has increased its purchase of Russian oil by 60 percent and they are buying more natural gas. They provide all kinds of technological capabilities that are important to maintaining the Russian war-making machinery.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The U.S. government admits it knows Chinese companies are selling surveillance footage or things used to improve targeting on the battlefield, but they say lethal support hasn’t happened yet. You say you don’t believe that?
LT. GENERAL HR MCMASTER: I don’t believe that. I think what you will see in the coming days and weeks is more and more evidence of Chinese support. You know, the Chinese don’t want to be caught in this business, do they? Because at the same time, while they’re helping the Russians kill Ukrainians, they’re also saying, hey, China is open for business. And they’re trying to appeal to American and other investors to continue supporting their statist mercantilist model, even as they commit genocide, even as Xi Jinping, just at the recent National Congress last week, gave really four speeches, basically preparing the Chinese people for war . I mean, those were jingoistic speeches, he also made it clear that the security economy would dominate, you know, the free market economy or the technology sector. And so I think it’s time to really assess the extent to which we’ve been in many ways over many years, our own demise, you know, with investments in China and we’re really not doing more to support, you know, the coastal – uplift fragile supply chains, we’re essentially gave an authoritarian regime, coercive power over our economy –
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you…
LT. GENERAL HR MCMASTER: –similar to what Europe did with Russia on hydrocarbons.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about Republican Gov. Chris Sununu wrote in an op-ed: “Some members of the Republican Party have lost their moral compass on foreign policy as evidenced by former President Trump, who once called Putin’s invasion genius and smart. ” The governor of Florida has said similar things that seem to downplay the conflict. What do you think about the two top candidates for president in the Republican Party pushing it?
LT. GENERAL HR MCMASTER: Well, I think that’s sad, Margaret. I think you know, why don’t you just focus on two things. Look at how bravely the Ukrainians fought for their own freedom, it should restore confidence perhaps in our own nation, and the gift we have to be free and to have freedom of expression and freedom from fear. You know, I think you also look at just the atrocities that have been inflicted on the Ukrainian people, and then you also recognize that it is in our interest, you know, where does it stop? You know, Putin went to Sevastopol, which he annexed in 2014-
MARGARET BRENNAN: HR, yes-
LT. GENERAL HR MCMASTER: – And of course, there is a direct line between that and…
MARGARET BRENNAN: I have to…
LT. GENERAL HR MCMASTER: – I think that if we are not strong –
MARGARET BRENNAN: – I have to leave it here.
LT. GENERAL HR MCMASTER: Thank you Margaret
MARGARET BRENNAN: I appreciate your analysis. We’ll be right back.