Russian President Vladimir Putin had a carefully staged rally in which thousands of adoring fans came out to support their dear leader and as he tells it, his noble campaign to liberate the Ukrainian people from the Nazis. Today, for the first time in the three-week-long war, Russian missiles hit Lviv in western Ukraine just 40 miles from Poland. For nearly two hours today, President Biden spoke with Chinese leader Xi Jinping over secure video link. Russia`s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov appeared on a state TV network called Russia and took the opportunity to praise Fox News.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: We are pretty close to making some pretty remarkable history but we`re also bracing ourselves for racism and sexism to be right in the spotlight next week at these hearings. We`re going to be watching very closely starting Monday and we know what we`re going to expect, but we`re ready for it so don`t forget to come back. And that is tonight`s "REIDOUT." ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES starts now.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC ANCHOR (voiceover): Tonight on ALL IN. The image Putin is trying to project to Russia and the world versus the reality in Ukraine then.
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: President Xi has to decide what he`s going to do here.
HAYES: Biden tries to persuade China not to support the Russian invasion. Plus the latest on the ground in Ukraine as Russia attacks the western city of Lviv for the first time. And the response from Republican leadership as a congressman becomes Russian propaganda.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R-CA): Madison is wrong. If there`s any fog in this world it`s Putin.
HAYES: With ALL IN starts right now.
HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. Today, we got an image of what Russian President Vladimir Putin wants his people in the world to see about his invasion of Ukraine that has been so strongly condemned by so many. It`s a cat -- a carefully staged rally in which thousands of adoring fans came out to support their dear leader and as he tells it, at least his noble campaign to liberate the Ukrainian people from the Nazis. That`s the image he is pushing day by day, a strongman fighting a heroic war and a nation united behind him. Putin even cited scripture to justify the invasion.
But Putin`s carefully crafted image does not reflect the reality on the ground in neighboring Ukraine. Today, protesters in the city of Lviv placed more than a hundred strollers in the town square to represent the number of children killed in the war so far. In the southern port city of Mariupol, rescue efforts are underway to find the hundreds of people who are trapped under the rubble of a theater which was reportedly bombed by Russian forces, while a thousand civilians sheltered inside. In that same city, where two AP journalists have been the only international media present, people have been stuck with nowhere to go for weeks as the city is besieged by Russian forces.
Food is running out, the Russians have stopped humanitarian attempts to bring it in. Electricity is mostly gone, water is sparse, with residents melting snow to drink. Some parents have even left their newborns in the hospital, perhaps hoping to give them a chance at life in one place with decent electricity and water."
That is, I would submit, the real face of Putin`s war. A reality that more people in Russia may understand the Kremlin is letting on. Well, many attendees of Putin`s rally today undoubtedly support the president and his war. That is not the case for all of them, at least according to one BBC reporter who was present. "Many said they worked in the public sector that they`d been pressured into attending by their employers. One man who works in the Moscow Metro told reporters he and other employees have been forced to attend the rally. Students told us they`d been given the option of a day off from lectures that they attended `a concert.` Some of them didn`t even know the event was dedicated in part to support for Russian forces in Ukraine." It is, quite literally, political theater, a kind of textbook set piece of a strong man.
And it`s worth taking a step back and looking at the context in which Putin rose to the ranks both in and after the fall of the Soviet Union. Here`s our NBC Nightly News report on Putin being appointed as Russia`s Prime Minister back in 1999.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LESTER HOLT, MSNBC ANCHOR (voiceover): Out of the Shadows of Russia`s spy service, a new prime minister, Vladimir Putin, a man of little political experience, but a long career in espionage, most recently, head of the shadowy Federal Security Service formerly the KGB, longtime spy in Germany, Secretary of Yeltsin`s Advisory Council, the sensitive powerful Kremlin inner circle, and fiercely loyal to the President. And in another surprise, Yeltsin today named Putin, just not an acting prime minister, but also his choice for president in next year`s election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: And notably, just a month after that report aired, Putin solidified his power by positioning himself as a strong man in response to a series of horrific apartment bombings across Russia, which left more than 300 dead. The attacks were formally blamed on Chechen terrorists, but there are quite -- is quite a bit of suspicion to this day surrounding who actually set off those bombs.
The bombings provide an excuse for Putin`s order ground invasion of Chechnya, launching the second Chechen war, and that is how Putin came to power. But even before that, before he got his start that he got his start in the Soviet intelligence services, the notorious, and secret of KGB were are of course the version of deception or the norm.
As a Russian journalist, Sergei Dobrynin recounts in a fantastic piece of the Atlantic about Putin`s rise to power, here`s how one leftist dissident academic in Russia described him, Putin, at the time of his ascension. "He has a Checkist," meaning an agent, the secret police. "Once a Checkist, always a Checklist. He is pure evil."
Once a member of the secret police, always a member of the secret police, it is how Putin operates. He appears to retain within him a tie to the worst aspects of Soviet Union shadowy totalitarianism, at least according to his behavior in recent weeks. You see, there is an entire field of study, it now feels antique but it was all the rage for a while called Kremlinology. It rose to prominence during the Cold War because of course, there was no free press in the Soviet Union at the time, and therefore no public covered -- coverage of the external political debate.
But just because there was none of that, right, and most decisions were made through secret backchannels didn`t mean there weren`t politics inside the Soviet Union and there were, of course, lots of it. And it meant that you had to learn to read between the lines to discover what those politics were, which factions were ascended and who was on the outs of party leadership, who wielded what power, what debates were happening within the party leadership. And again, it`s weird that we find ourselves here, in 2022, in the 21st century, but it`s sort of what observers are left doing once again.
At this point, after the passage of the new law, outlawing the use of the word war, essentially tamping down on what was left of the independent Russian free press, there`s no real, real free Russian press reporting on the inner workings of Putin`s government. So we are left trying to divine his thoughts and plans and the formations of whatever factions and controversies there might be in his inner circle from what little information we do have.
There are reports that two of Putin`s top officials are under house arrest for the supposed crime of not getting the president the right information ahead of the invasion. Obviously, if he was told that they were going to take Kyiv in a matter of days, you can imagine he`s pretty angry about that. A study by the Institute for the Study of war indicated that he may be purging the military and intelligence personnel. All that is in contrast, of course, to Putin`s public shows of strength, not just at the rally, but also his public addresses using, frankly, Stalinist language, comparing dissenters to insects, and calling for a cleansing of society from subversive Western influence.
There`s also reporting that Putin called Turkey`s President Erdogan to begin conversations about what a potential peace deal with Ukraine might look like. Keep in mind, the current peace talks are happening in Turkey, and what concessions he would demand from Ukrainian President Zelenskyy`s government.
Now again, as we covered on the program yesterday, and we`ve been covering all along, it`s just hard to know how serious those talks are. But one thing that does seem clear from all the reporting we have, and I guess that again, this is sort of a black box, it`s sort of opaque. But to the best that we can tell from the reporting we have, from the observations of what we`re seeing taken all together, reading between the lines, it would appear at the very least, that Putin does not believe this war is going as planned.
Whether that leads to an off-ramp or a doubling down on the atrocities he is currently to this hour and minute leveling on the Ukrainian people remains to be seen. Because unfortunately, so much right now of the world`s suffering and misery and the reverberating effects of it is wrapped up in the frustrations and the psyche of this one man, a Checkist, through and through.
David Remnick is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and the editor-in-chief of The New Yorker. He`s written extensively on Russia, Ukraine, and Putin. You know, his latest piece is titled A Russian Journalists Who Stayed Behind. And David, I`ve been following your coverage of this and learning a lot from it. You had a great interview with a Stalinist biographer -- a Stalin biographer, who is for the legendary towering figures of Russian history.
And, you know, he makes a lot of arguments for continuity here and it didn`t seem today, I mean, at this -- at this rally today, while the genre was more 21st century, sort of pop music as opposed to like Soviet choral, you know, anthems, it was like -- it looked like some you in a stage as a final project for your like, strongman 101 courses like it was just very much on point with all of the trappings of sort of, like a performance of fascist unity.
DAVID REMNICK, EDITOR, THE NEW YORKER: Well, that interview was with Steve Kotkin, the great biographer of Stalin, but I think he`d be the first to tell you that Stalin is very different from Putin in myriad ways, but it is no question that Putin looks to leaders of the past as models both in terms of ideology and style and how he conducts himself, and he knows a little bit about historical resonance.
So the other day when he gave a short speech and started referring to fifth columnists, and a self-cleansing, that was the phrase, self-cleansing of Russia. Those are, you know, everybody with, you know, half an ounce of knowledge of Russian and Soviet history knows that this is a reference to the 30s and Stalin. The Bolshevik Chesco (PH), was the great purge of that time. But in those -- in those days, what happened was that night after night, after night, trucks called Black Maria`s would come up to apartment buildings and KGB officers would come out and knock on the door and summon your husband or wife or whoever, and they`d never be seen again, they don`t be off to the prison camps or shot in the back of the head or whatever and this occurred to countless people, and not least among them, party members. There`s an apartment building called the house on the embankment in Moscow, that`s, you know, one apartment after another every, night, one more party official would disappear, and that would be the end of him.
This kind of self-cleansing is something else. This is oligarchs in their - - in their yachts racing for the Maldives. It`s young liberals from the press, and computer programmers and intellectuals and people from the kind of urban middle classes, who would now be the natural enemies of Putin, fearing for their existences and heading off to Tbilisi, in Yerevan and Istanbul, and they don`t know whether they`re going to be back. You`re going to see an enormous brain drain from Moscow, St. Petersburg, and many other places that have just begun.
And Putin went on television and just declared himself delighted to see this. You`re seeing all kinds of people quitting their jobs, even on official television, firings, people, you know, being arrested at the various agencies around town in Moscow. So a lot is happening. There`s a tremendous amount of anxiety in Putin about what has happened because this did not go the way he wanted.
HAYES: Yes, and I want to just re-emphasize what you said, I don`t you know, I think there`s a lot of differences between Stalin and Putin, the sort of key thing I think, that I`ve been thinking about, I was rereading Stalin`s very infamous 1946 speech, the end of the World War Two and then the beginning of the Cold War. And there`s some themes there about, you know, this sort of this very kind of bellicose vision of we`re going to -- was it you know, what`s so clear there and obviously, in the Soviet days, and this is true, Putin himself as a Checkist was a very uniting ideological framework. I mean, they really weren`t Marxist Leninist doctrinaire, they believed, you know, Stalin believed in it, it was -- it suffused everything. And the question of what is the ideological story being told here, to me still seems a little vague, and obviously, I`m not the audience for it.
There`s a certain kind of nationalism and you know there`s a reference to Scripture and he talks about Catherine the Great in the -- in the speech, announcing the war is sort of restoration of Imperial Russia. But what -- I guess the reason I think that`s important is it seems like perhaps it gives some indication of what breaking point there is for him, what possible out there could be?
REMNICK: Well, you make a great point. And this has been a struggle since the collapse of communism and the collapse of the Soviet Union. In Yeltsin`s time, they literally put together a committee to come up with a national idea. Would it be, you know, a revival of some sort of star ism, I`m not kidding. A star ism with their, you know, there was gathering support for a kind of Neo communism under Gennady Zyuganov, and then there were people who supported Western democracy.
And this was a time of great drift and demoralization in Russia and poverty, that all came to nothing. And then Putin arrived. And over the years, you know, we talk -- think about him as a secret, we don`t know. We know a hell of a lot because he tells us, he makes tons of speeches and appearances in which he talks about or celebrates, various czars of the past invariably. The most draconian of them are the ones who have whipped the Russian empire into shape.
Those are the ones he models himself after. He sees himself in the line of the leaders he hates. Our people like Gorbachev, who had some inkling of Western democratic reform in the even -- or early Yeltsin. He looks to them as typical and much worse than that. So there is a kind of intellectually vague, a collection of thinkers, Ilyin as one, just kind of who admired fascism as well. All kinds of things, there`s Berjayov (PH), he -- whatever it seems to work for him, he`ll throw in the intellectual pot.
REMNICK: And we know that he spent some time with one of his aides that he`s close to, Yuri Kovalchuk who agrees with Putin on this kind of Neo nationalist, Great Russia thinking. And that is what figured into the need, in his mind, to bring Ukraine back in. Russia without Ukraine is just a country. With Ukraine, it`s an empire again.
HAYES: David Remnick who`s reporting on this has been excellent that Kotkin interview, I recommend to folks really learned a lot from it. Thank you.
REMNICK: Thank you, Chris.
HAYES: Tonight, Putin`s war is expanding his airstrikes targetting the western city of Lviv for the first time. Well, in the East in the city of Kharkiv, Russian bombs have flattened entire buildings. Rescue workers are still incredibly finding people trapped in the rubble. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD ENGEL, MSNBC CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: A man called Vladislav was released from his toe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speaking a foreign language.
ENGEL: How are you? I asked.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speaking a foreign language.
ENGEL: Better than ever, but I want to smoke he said. And his rescuers were quick to oblige.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ENGEL: Once again, Russia has attacked civilians here in Kyiv, bombing an apartment complex, killing at least one person here wounding more than a dozen. But if you look at the scale of the attack, the bomb landed right in the middle of this complex damaging all the apartments around, also a school, a supermarket, a kindergarten, the death toll could have been far worse. And this is happening every day now, not just in Kyiv, but also in Kharkiv, in Mariupol, in Chernihiv, where civilians are being attacked without any military targets in the area.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That was NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel from the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. This entire week, we`ve been seeing this kind of reporting from those on the ground. Russian forces apparently deliberately targeting civilian areas, whatever it is, apartment buildings and schools, hospitals, the similar pattern we`ve seen in other eastern and central Ukrainian cities.
Now, today, for the first time in the three-week-long war, Russian missiles hit Lviv in western Ukraine just 40 miles from Poland. They struck an aircraft repair facility near the airport. And it is a dramatic step up in the worst stark example to Ukrainians that no place may be safe. NBC News Correspondent Cal Perry is in Lviv. He joins me now live with the latest. Cal, my understanding is you guys heard some explosions just about an hour ago. What`s the latest there?
CAL PERRY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and look, this is a city that is under martial law and under a curfew, so unless I can see it from my location here in the balcony, we`re probably not going to have more information on it until the morning. The other thing that`s going on here is the government is being very vague intentionally about these targets about what is being hit. So it`s intentionally vague what you`re saying airport repair facility. We know it`s somewhere near the airport, journalists were not allowed near the scene.
And again, that is an operational security issue for a city that is preparing itself for potentially further airstrikes. It is the generalization of that information that is very purposeful on behalf of the authorities here in the western part of the country.
This is about supply lines as well, of course, the Russians have said they will target anything that they view as a supply line. That`s very possible that that`s what that was early this morning. To the east of the country, as you`ve been laying out, we continue to see these civilian areas under heavy bombardment.
What was maybe a week ago, the indiscriminate targeting of civilians has now slowly moved into the direct targeting certainly of civilians as they leave these areas. We`ve been talking about towns like Zaporizhzhia, north of Mariupol where civilians today, for example, 5000 were able to get out, people going to Zaporizhzhia, and then the Russian military is targeting those intersections.
As you heard from Richard Engel, what we`ve seen in the last 24 hours is a direct targeting of the lifelines that civilians rely on, the food structures, in Chernihiv, for example, a breadline targeted by Russian troops. In Kyiv, it is that grain facility that was targeted by Russian troops. In Kharkiv, it was a marketplace targeted by Russian forces.
So, you see the slow disintegration of what remains of a structure that would support civilians. The worst of it seems to be in Mariupol, where, again, we`re talking about civilians who can`t even get above ground long enough to bury loved ones, a city that is now being defined by images of these mass graves. It is something that is unimaginable until you sort of see it and we`re starting to now get pictures from inside these places that we just haven`t seen.
The video you`re seeing on the right side of your screen was taken earlier today. This is the first look that we`re getting at this neighborhood where again, we`re seeing sort of makeshift graves above grounds in these apartment areas, places where no one should have to bury a loved one. And that`s what we`re seeing play out on the ground, Chris.
HAYES: Quickly, Cal, I just want to ask you about the mood in Lviv, I mean, I know the city is tense it`s on edge. There are many internally displaced Ukrainians who are sheltering there because it`s been out of the line of fire at least up until now. What is the -- what is -- what are things like in the streets of Lviv as it seems inevitable that what has happened to Kyiv will be turned loose on Lviv?
PERRY: Yes. I think people are coming to that realization and I think it`s taken the airstrike that we saw this morning to see the doubling for example of sandbags. It`s not just the government facilities, the police stations, the government center, it is also historical locations. The 300- year-old church I walked past this evening on my way to try to grab some food and they`ve sandbag -- double sandbag all of those windows that are on ground level, any of those stained glass windows.
Statues, for the third time since World War One, World War Two, and now again in the year 2022 being wrapped up prepared to maybe be moved underground. So it is a European city that is preparing for possible air assault and we see that on the streets here.
HAYES: All right, Cal Perry, as always, thank you and stay safe. We really appreciate the work you`re doing. Thank you very much.
HAYES: I want to now turn to Karoun Demirjian. She is a Pentagon Correspondent at the Washington Post. She was also a Moscow correspondent during the invasion of Crimea back in 2014 and she joins me now. Karoun, I guess the first question is we saw that big package of military aid that was announced yesterday, a stinger missiles and ammo, body armor, a whole bunch of stuff. What is the Pentagon -- obviously, I`m not going to say much about this in any specific granular terms because that term, they don`t want to intercept it. But what -- is there a sense of how quickly and expeditiously that can get provided to Ukrainian fighters?
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: It can be sent out provided that it exists in the United States stores, which there are supplies. And look, we saw in the last tranche of aid that went -- military assistant that went out that it happened fairly quickly. There -- that was a $350 billion package, you saw that at least 240 million going out within about a little more than a week, and so that gives you a sense of how urgent this is.
So, the United States clearly is going to try to get things to Ukraine as fast as possible. There`s also moves by various other NATO countries to try to do the same. You listed the package of U.S.-sponsored material that`s going over there, all of which is kind of augmenting the supply that we`ve already been sending to Ukraine and sending them more of that. So that -- those are things that have been utilized in the battlefield there, they show that it`s, you know, surface to air missiles preparation for potential urban warfare in some ways you`d have to assume based on the smaller arms. But this isn`t the whole scope of the negotiation.
Obviously, there`s as you know, there`s been a lot of tension this week in talking about how to get surface-to-air missile systems to Ukrainians that would have a longer range and be able to hit Russian warplanes at higher altitudes. And obviously, Zelenskyy has been pleading with many countries around the world, many Allied countries to send him at least those if not planes, if not, helping him close the skies over the country.
HAYES: Yes. It seems like the sort of structure of the Zelenskyy asked both in the U.S. -- before the U.S. Congress earlier this week and before the German government as well, was a kind of, you know, a high ask, which I think he knew he wasn`t getting, which was a no-fly zone, which is difficult and dangerous for a whole bunch of reasons. And then a sort of, you know, a fallback acid. He seemed more confident in getting in it does seem like those requests for military equipment are coming through.
DEMIRJIAN: Yes. I mean, look, it`s a -- it`s a smart negotiation tactic to ask for more than you think you`re going to get, and also to kind of go around people like President Biden and appeal directly to Congress or directly to parliaments to put that upward pressure on the administration to do more and do more faster.
As you pointed out, you know, the tippy top request that he`s got, the no- fly zone, at least President Biden has been pretty clear that that is not going to happen, NATO too, they don`t want to get into a head to head confrontation with Russia and it would require you to shoot down Russian warplanes if you`re going to enforce this based on the way Russia has been operating.
But -- and there`s also similar resistance, at least the United States to sending MiGs and things like that because they don`t think they`ll be able to stay up in the sky very long because the Russians have positions surface to air missile systems too that pretty much blanket the entire country. So it`s dangerous. It`s possible but it`s a dangerous undertaking and not great odds of a deal, actually hit targets before Ukrainians would lose those assets too. So that`s why we focused where we have. And that`s the middle ground between what Zelenskyy has been vocalizing and what the West has seemingly been willing to do.
HAYES: Since you were a Moscow bureau chief, you`re corresponding to Moscow during the annexation of Crimea in 2014, that rally today, which I don`t know if we noted up top was ostensibly a sort of memorialization and celebration of the Crimea annexation more than explicitly this particular special military operation. And I guess I wonder just a personal level like, you think about yourself back in 2014 covering that, did you see this day coming?
DEMIRJIAN Well, I mean, my -- most of my experience in Ukraine was during the Donbass side of the war. But look, it`s -- Crimea has been a very pivotal episode for the Russian people and for the Ukrainian people. You know, that was a fairly bloodless annexation of a large piece of Ukrainian territory that happened by a referendum. That`s been internationally condemned, but it happened. And Ukraine has not been to recognize that, neither has the West
But we`ve kind of hit this point where, you know, we`re in a de facto state of Ukraine, Kyiv, specifically not having control over these areas that have either been annexed by Russia, or the separatist self-declared republics that are in the east in Donetsk and Luhansk.
And so yes, the Russians, Putin, specifically taking this moment to celebrate that to point out, it`s been eight years. That`s not accidental. He`s trying to build sympathies at home for -- and he`s trying to paint the Russian side as the victim here in the face of Western aggression and Ukrainian aggression, and all of these things that are very, very spun up, very, very trumped-up sort of lines that he`s selling to his own people. But that`s the argument he`s making and Crimea is kind of, you know, the origin point of that when Putin started scoring wins.
HAYES: Yes. And your point there about the sort of bloodlessness of it, I think, is well taken because I think to the extent that there`s calculations from Putin about the ease he would face here, we know that they thought -- they thought this would go much easier than it had been. And they had a little bit of sort of proof of concept in how it went in Crimea in terms of the amount of fighting there and the duration of that operation.
Karoun Demirjian, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
DEMIRJIAN: Thank you.
HAYES: Next, President Biden tries to prevent China from providing any assistance to Putin`s war. What we know about his nearly two-hour-long conversation with Xi Jinping after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President detailed, you know, what the implications and consequences would be if China provides material support to Russia, as it conducts brutal attacks against Ukrainian cities and civilians. And obviously, that is something we will be watching and the world we`ll be watching.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: For nearly two hours today, President Biden spoke with Chinese leader Xi Jinping over secure video link. According to readouts from both countries, the war in Ukraine was, of course a major topic of discussion. After the call, Chinese government press -- Chinese government press release said, "The Ukraine crisis is not something we want to see, and conflict and confrontation are not in anyone`s interest. Peace and security are what the international community should treasure the most."
While the readout from the White House had President Biden describe the implications and consequences of China provides material support to Russia in Ukraine, adding that he underscored his support for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis said that the two leaders also agreed on the importance of maintaining open lines of communication.
I`m joined now by someone who knows firsthand all about dealing with China, as well as Russia, Kevin Rudd. He served as both Prime Minister and Foreign Minister for Australia. He`s the author of The Avoidable War, warning about potential conflict between the U.S. and China.
Prime Minister, I know that this is an area of deep expertise for you, and specifically because of where Australia is on the globe. You have strong relationships with the "West" with U.S., and also obviously China`s very proximate to you. What is your assessment of the calculation here for the Chinese government and the diplomatic goals of the Biden administration, how achievable they are?
KEVIN RUDD, FORMER PRIME MINISTER, AUSTRALIA: Well, for the last several years, I`ve been president of an American think tank here in New York. And so, we try and take a global perspective on this. I think Xi Jinping`s objectives are basically along these lines.
That number one, he presides over a government which has been seeking to use its relationship with Russia to give it as much latitude as possible to expand its regional and global assertiveness against the United States. That`s the first point.
I think the second is that the Chinese and the Russians and the U.N. Security Council collaborate on all manner of things, whether it`s from the Middle East, to other trouble spots in the world. And again, there`s a concerted challenge the U.S.-led international system.
And finally, it is something about I described as a Xi Jinping-Vladimir Putin bromance reflected in the photographs currently on your screen, which is these authoritarian hard men with a common view that they are, "men of history," and seeking to roll back the tide of the American dominated liberal international order. Put all that together, that`s where the Chinese are coming from.
I think what the United States and its most recent exchange today between President Biden and President Xi Jinping was trying to articulate clearly was if China decides to provide material financial or material military support to Putin`s Russia at this time for use in Ukraine, then this will invite an American reaction to China.
And that is the core communication which I think President Biden sought to deliver. I think the message has been received. The open question is what will China do in the weeks ahead on these two questions.
HAYES: Yes. Just to the background here of some of those photos. You know, 20 days before the invasion, there was this big announcement between the two countries that they had a friendship has no limits, a phrase which I can`t help but be funny to me. There are no forbidden areas of cooperation, nothing taboo, apparently, between the two, the two countries said in a joint -- in a joint statement.
I have to say, I would love your wisdom and experience here. So, the U.S. keep saying, look, there`s reports that Russia has asked explicitly for essentially rearmament from the Chinese. And the U.S. has said publicly they think that`s the case and they fear it the warning against it.
It does seem to me like that would be a very proactive and provocative step by the Chinese and unnecessary. I guess I don`t understand the upside for them in something going that far. How realistic do you think that is?
RUDD: You know, Beijing, to some extent, is divided on these questions. I mean, I`ve spent the better part of 30 or 40 years rolling my head around these questions in one form or another back to when I was a junior Woodchuck in the Australian foreign service serving in our embassy in Beijing way back when, and looking at the prism of Russia-China relations ever since.
You see, I think the bottom line is that Xi Jinping has a view of Putin, that they have a common cause against the United States, which represents a full small supply for China`s global diplomatic project. And its regional efforts even in Asia to roll back the U.S. dominated order.
And furthermore, what Russia does, by virtue of its actions in Syria, and in Europe, like in Ukraine is it diverts American attention. It diverts the strategic focus of the United States away from the China challenge. So, for those reasons, Xi has an enormous attachment to keeping Putin and Putin`s Russia operational.
I know the counter-arguments, which is the Europeans, historically fairly benign towards China, renouncing China through a different lens. Secondly, the international community in the developing world is now voting against the Russian invasion despite China sitting to the sidelines. And on top of that, there`s always this danger that what Putin is doing, in fact, invites American financial sanctions down on China`s head in what I would describe as the Armageddon option.
And all those things act against China`s material interests. But never underestimate that for a Marxist Leninist regime like the one in Beijing, politics and security always come first, and they trump economics, and that`s the dangerous zone that we`re in.
HAYES: All right, that was really illuminating. Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, now the head of the Asia Society, thank you very much.
RUDD: Good to be with you.
HAYES: Coming up, Congressman Cawthorn`s Putin friendly comments have earned him a spot alongside Tucker Carlson on Russian TV. That Russia divide on the GOP after this.
HAYES: Today, Russia`s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov appeared on a state TV network called Russia Today or RT. You probably heard about it. It`s an English language propaganda channel. It`s funded by the Russian government. It`s not really surprising that Lavrov took the opportunity this morning to praise the closest thing we have to RT or RT`s views on the crisis here in the United States, Fox News.
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SERGEY LAVROV, FOREIGN MINISTER, RUSSIA: We know the manners and the tricks which are being used by the Western countries to manipulate media. We understood long ago that there is no such thing as an independent Western media. You could take the United States only Fox News is threatening to present some alternative points of view.
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HAYES: And Russian state TV channels have been playing a lot of Fox News clips lately, especially from Tucker Carlson show in an effort to show that the American right is on their side in this unprovoked war with Ukraine. A small faction of the right is also pushing pro-Russian propaganda, including Congressman Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina.
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REP. MADISON CAWTHORN (R-NC): Remember that Zelenskyy is a thug. Remember that Ukrainian government is incredibly corrupt, and it is incredibly evil, and it has being pushing woke ideologies.
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HAYES: I should tell you, that video of Cawthorn calling him a thug, incredibly evil, and pushing woke ideologies has also been played over and over on Russian TV immediately after that clip surfaced. Some establishment Republicans like Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina spoke out against it.
It took more than a week however for the leader of the Republican Party in the House to denounce Madison Cawthorn`s statements.
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REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Madison is wrong. And if there`s any thug in this world, it`s Putin. This is the aggressor. This is the one that needs to end this war. This is the one that everybody should unite against.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you support his re-election?
HAYES: This divided in the Republican Party presents a challenge not just for its members, but also for the Democratic President as he navigates the domestic politics around this international crisis. I`ll talk about that with former Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes next.
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SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I think the administration is afraid of the Russians losing because they haven`t contemplated that.
REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): We cannot fund more of it by sending money and weaponry to Ukraine to fight a war they cannot possibly win.
SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): They want MIGs, get them the MIGs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: It`s the current state of Republican Party views ranging spectrum on how the U.S. should react to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The right swings all the way from a pro-Putin caucus, to those who seem eager to start world war three, who think President Biden is not doing enough to help Ukrainians.
Those divisions add another layer of complexity that Biden must navigate as he decides how to respond to the crisis. Ben Rhodes served as deputy national security adviser for President Obama. He`s the author of The World As It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House.
Ben, you know, sometimes on this show, we`ll cover something that is very straightforward to me. I have very strong views on you know, should we renew the child tax credit that delivered tens of millions of households from poverty? Yes, we should. Not a hard call. This seems like nothing but hard calls. Like, what American foreign policy is in this moment is just about as difficult and fraught and cross pressured as possible. How do you think the Biden administration has done so far?
BEN RHODES: Chris, I think they`ve handled it exceedingly well. And you know, and I`m certainly one who could call them out when I think that they haven`t held things well. The reality is they`re threading and incredibly careful needle between wanting to signal as much support and provide as much support as possible to the Ukrainians to defend themselves, wanting to marshal the world`s democracies to essentially evict Russia, from the global economy and from integration with Europe in the United States, but also wanting to avoid the risk of escalation into a wider conventional war that could even become a nuclear war.
These are really, really serious, difficult issues that they have to navigate. And I think that they walk these lines very carefully. And they can`t control outcomes on the ground here. But what they can do is control the decisions that they make, the support that we provide, the actions we take with our allies, the messages that we send to Russia. And I think thus far, you know, across the board, you have to say that they perform quite well.
HAYES: There is a call -- you know, I mean, I think there`s an interesting thing happening in the Republican Party. I think the vast majority of Republicans don`t like Vladimir Putin and kind of want to get to Biden`s right on this. So, they want to say that he should be doing more, that there should be a no fly zone.
There is a hardcore part of the base and you see to Madison Cawthorn, you see it in Margaret Taylor Greene, you see it on Tucker show a bit from Trump, right, of this sort of like anti-anti-Putin ism, Ukraine is a made up country, like, the Clintons invented it and it`s just a place for corrupt Democrats to go, just like it`s complete nonsense.
Overall, how does the Republican political posture and the polling on this where you know, Putin`s got a 90 percent unfavorable rating? How does that end up impacting the decision space for our -- for our president in this kind of crisis?
RHODES: I mean, I think to some extent, you have to block out this noise and ignore it. I mean, we all know that the Republicans have spent five years kind of bathing themselves in this affinity for Putin ism, if not Putin himself. The leader of the party, Donald Trump has heaped praise and lavish praise on Vladimir Putin. It`s something you and I, Chris, have talked about here is there`s a really awkward reality for the Republicans, which is that Vladimir Putin is at the vanguard of a brand of politics, ethno nationalist, right-wing ethno nationalist authoritarian politics, that a lot of the leaders that Republicans have admired over the years have subscribed to.
Whether that`s Bolsonaro in Brazil, Viktor Orban in Hungary, and Narendra Modi in India. You look across the board, Mohamed bin Zayed in the UAE. The kinds of leaders that the Republicans have embraced, and the kinds of ideologies that they`ve embraced over the last few years, particularly since Trump took over the party are very much the types of people that were in line with Vladimir Putin.
Now, thus far they`ve been kind of shocked out of it, and what you`ve seen is them revert back their kind of instinctual hawkfish a political approach to foreign policy where they aim to get to the right of Democratic president. But it`s hard to make people forget what we all lived through the last few years in this country where the same kind of creeping ethno nationalist authoritarianism was a feature of our politics all the way to January 6.
And so, I think President Biden`s task is to enlist Republicans and try to tap into their desire to play a constructive role in providing things like support to the Ukrainians, but you know, like, don`t let them forget, don`t let them walk away from the reality that in this democracies versus autocracies battle that Ukraine is at the vanguard of (AUDIO GAP). They`ve been on the wrong side.
HAYES: You know, the Syrian conflict, I think, has loomed large over everyone`s perception of this just because of the ways in which history is kind of rhymed here, of course, Putin and the Russian armies involvement, the horrible targeting of civilians. You know, one difficult thing that I`ve been wrestling with is that the duration of time that that conflict took place compounded the misery and the human toll of it.
And there is part of me that thinks like, obviously, we should be aiding the Ukrainian people defending their country against this aggression. They`re asking for weapons, that seems -- they`re clearly not the aggressor here. They`re defending themselves. There`s also a part of me that like the looks at Mariupol, the looks at this -- the cost of this war is like 10 years of this is a catastrophe beyond imagining. Like, how do you think about us what our outcome here is?
RHODES: I thought a lot about this, Chris. And the similarities are the absolute barbarism of the offensive against civilians in the involvement of the Russian military. There are also important differences. Syria was an internal conflict. It was an uprising, a civil war, and then essentially multiple insurgencies.
This is one big country invading a democratic neighbor. And you have in Ukraine a sovereign government and Sovereign military making the decision to fight the Russians and asking for our support. That is different than the United States arming insurgency. And I think it`s important for those of us who are more progressive and have a lot of concerns about the history of the United States Army insurgencies to recognize that an elected president of the president with a sovereign military requesting that assistance is quite different.
And there I think we can be guided by it. The Ukrainians are the ones who want to be in this fight. And they`re going to resist across the board, Putin`s aggression. Then we think have an obligation to support.
HAYES: It`s a very, very, very good point. Ben Rhodes, thank you very much.
RHODES: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: That is ALL IN for this week. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" with Ali Velshi starts now. Good evening, Ali.