The Issue Is: NSC's John Kirby talks Ukraine, China and his own military service

This week, the issue is: geopolitics.

Elex Michaelson is joined on The Issue Is by National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby.

This, on a week when President Biden announced $400M in new military aid to Ukraine and as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen delivered $1.2B in financial aid during a trip to Kyiv.

Kirby, who served 28 years in the Navy before working in both the Obama and Biden administrations, discusses the purpose of those funds, addresses critics who say that $75B directed to Ukraine since the war began would be better served here at home, and talks the potential endgame in the now year-long war.

It’s not just Ukraine, Kirby also discusses increasing tensions with China and opens up about some of the biggest challenges of his own storied career.

Also this week, Michaelson is joined by LA Times writer Seema Mehta to discuss two new polls: one showing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis leading Former President Trump among California Republicans, another that 7 in 10 Californians would prefer Governor Gavin Newsom NOT run for President.

Then, Michaelson travels to San Diego to sit down with Mayor Todd Gloria. The two talk homelessness, conservatorships, and Gloria’s role as Chair of the California Big City Mayors.


KIRBY’S CENTRAL TAKE: "When you look at what's happening in Ukraine, there's a couple of things: Number one, it's the very idea of independence, Elex, And that's something that all Americans can get behind. We all understand what it's like to have to fight for your independence, to fight for their very existence to be a country. That's what's facing the Ukrainian people right now. So that's an ideal that all of us Americans understand…

"Number two, this war has absolutely had an effect on the American people. If you look at the price of gas, if you look at inflation, this war has contributed to cost prices around the world. Not that that is, by any measure, the most extreme consequence of this war - the most extreme consequence is the slaughter of innocent Ukrainian men, women and children, as well as millions being flung into refuge…

"And then the last thing I'd say is, and I think the American people understand this, that if we just walk away from this, if we just say that's it and we let Putin take all of Ukraine, where does it end? What's next? And I can guarantee you that if he just gets away with this, the cost in blood and treasure, not just to the United States and Americans, but to so many of our allies and partners, will be exorbitantly much higher than the cost that has been expended to keep Ukraine in the fight and to keep them in that fight successfully…"


KIRBY’S CENTRAL TAKE: "Today could be that [end] date if Mr. Putin would do the right thing and pull his troops out of Ukraine, where they have no business being in the first place. Now, clearly, he shows no signs of being willing to do that, so we've got to make sure that we continue to support Ukraine, make sure they're successful on the battlefield, so that if and when President Zelenskyy is ready to sit down and negotiate, that he can do so from a position of strength. We'd all like to see this war end as soon as possible - and Ukrainians, no less of anybody, want to see it over - but we've got to make sure that we put President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainians in the best position possible…"

"Nobody knows how long this war is going to go on - I'd be foolish if I tried to give you a date certain, or give you a target. We all would like to see it in today. We'd all like to see it end as soon as possible. But ultimately, that's going to be up to President Zelensky to determine. And as President Biden has said, as all the G7 leaders have said, we're going to have to stay at this, we're going to have to continue to support Ukraine, so that if and when they can get to the negotiating table, President Zelenskyy can succeed in that the way his troops have been succeeding in the field…"


KIRBY’S CENTRAL TAKE: "No, not at all, and there's no reason that it should get to a Cold War sort of environment. We consider our relationship with China, which is, quite frankly, the most consequential bilateral relationship in the world right now, as a strategic competition. And it's a competition that President Biden believes we can win. We've got the innovation, we've got the ingenuity, we've got the industry here in the United States. We can win this competition. We don't seek a conflict with China, and there's no reason for these tensions - and there are tensions in the relationship, you mentioned just a few of them - there's no reason for those tensions to devolve into some kind of conflict…"


KIRBY’S CENTRAL TAKE: "I think we veterans have to do a better job telling our stories, quite frankly... We've got to make sure that we don't allow the military to become an insular community, something apart from America, because we come from your cities, your town, your neighborhoods, and when we're done, we're going to go back. And so it's really important to keep the muscle and sinew between the American people and the military tight. And it would be easy to to say, 'well, you who haven't served have got to do more.' I think the American people, they support the troops, they support the veterans, they understand the sacrifices, and they've been very generous. I also think that we veterans have got to not be afraid to tell our stories, to get out there and to mix it up with the American people when we go back into society, you know, to be a part of that, and many of us do that. I think those conversations just have to keep happening so that we don't see the military split apart and become something different or something separate…

"I mean, if you were to go to the Pentagon today with me and you approached, I don't know, ten different people working there in uniform, I guarantee you that the majority, probably eight or nine out of those ten would tell you that they had a family member who either was serving or have served. My grandfather was on a battleship in World War One. My father was on an aircraft carrier in the 1950s. All my brothers, all four of them, all five of us - my dad made us join the military, so we all had service - that is a wonderful thing. My son is a naval officer right now, as a matter of fact, on a destroyer. It's a thing that we're very, very proud of. But if we're not careful, it can create a sense of insularity, which is, again, not helpful and not healthy for the republic, especially when it is an all volunteer force…"

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