Return to Transcripts main page


Inside Putin's Mind; Celebrity Chefs; Imagine a World

Aired November 28, 2013 - 14:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

Why on Earth would a European summit in Lithuania attract mass protests in Ukraine? Because when European heavyweights, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and the British Prime Minister David Cameron get together, instead of welcoming Ukraine into a European free trade deal, they're trying to figure out why the country's president, Viktor Yanukovych, has rejected that offer, even though he's decided to show up for the meeting in Vilnius.

But if the Europeans give him the cold shoulder, it's nothing compared to the cold and furious protests against him at home. Ukranians waving E.U. flags have been protesting for days all over the country. They want closer ties with the West, just as other smaller former Soviet republics have achieved.

And getting Ukraine to join would be a big catch for the E.U., with its population of 46 million and bordering four E.U. member states.

As for Ukraine, in its fifth year of recession, the trade deal is presumably badly needed. Instead, Ukraine will continue to cast its lots with Russia, many say, because of pressure from Vladimir Putin.

We asked the former Russian prime minister, Mikhail Kasyanov, why Ukraine would acknowledge out of an integration deal with the E.U. that was five years in the making and what's in it for Putin, his former boss, before he dismissed him in 2004?


AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, Mr. Kasyanov.


AMANPOUR: Tell me what on Earth is going on in the mind of the president of Ukraine? He has gone to this summit in Vilnius and yet he is not joining up or signing on to this European trade deal.

Why not?

KASYANOV: I think that we shouldn't see this as the consolidation of our overall policy, vis-a-vis deep integration with European Union.

I think the issue is very simple: Mr. Yanukovych, president of Ukraine, has pressure from the East, from Vladimir Putin in particular, and not enough of policies from the West.

AMANPOUR: I mean, let's face it; Ukraine is in about the fifth year of a bad recession; the currency is near collapse. As you said, it's got no IMF lifeline, huge debts and burdens.

Surely it would have been more useful to join the E.U. free -- what is the pressure that is coming from Putin and why?

KASYANOV: First, the joint free trade zone with European Union, it means a longstanding position that is a strategic position. It's a strategic choice. But next year, current problems, payments and great big deficit of the budget.

And where there are no promises, I think just those people who are not prepared to take risks for the reforms, which usually politicians take in the West, and they got afraid.

But I think it's absolutely clear for me that in 2015, in March of 2015, there will be a presidential election in the Ukraine. And for Mr. Yanukovych, that's the only choice -- chance to be elected, that's to join this agreement.

It means that most all the postponement of the signing, I'm sure that next year, 2014, Mr. Yanukovych and the whole government of Ukraine will sign this agreement, at that will be beginning of presidential campaign.

AMANPOUR: Why does Putin want Ukraine in its sphere right now?

Why does Putin want to take on these massive debts, the collapsing currency, all these protesters from all over the country who want to join Europe, why does Putin want Ukraine to be more like with Russia than with Europe?

KASYANOV: The problem is that Mr. Putin changed his policy. When they were together, I was in office, our priority on foreign policy was also deep integration with the European Union.

AMANPOUR: That was his first term.

KASYANOV: And it was his first term and I was in the prime minister's office. And they moved it towards this direction. And we allowed the whole process. Ukraine was together with us.

Then suddenly Mr. Putin, well, a year after my departure, just changed his policy and appeared to be that European Union not just a friend but competitor if not to say just to use -- had more and more strong word on that. That's why just -- and his policy to be -- to move in different direction, he tries to secure Ukraine together with Russia.

AMANPOUR: So tell me, what is going on? Let's have a status report on what's going on inside the political machinations of President Putin.

Why has he changed so dramatically?

Why do we have this representation of political rights in Russia?

Why do we have the arrests of the 30 Greenpeace activists, the anti- propaganda law, which is causing such a problem maybe for the Sochi Olympic Games, arresting Pussy Riot and putting them in jail?

What is happening inside Mr. Putin's head right now?

KASYANOV: The problem is Mr. Putin made a dramatic mistake in 2004 and '05 and instead of trying to be elected as he did in the year 2000, in 2004, that was already a manipulation. In 2008, it was manipulation of (INAUDIBLE) Mr. Medvedev, just temporarily occupying the post of president et cetera.

And since that time, we don't have elections in Russia. We have imitation elections. That's a crucial mistake. And in this policy, Mr. Putin, since 2005, didn't pursue any reform. Russia badly needs reforms because the structured economy and the -- and the position of the economy, it's very fragile. This one is, well, oil prices fall down, it will be social disaster.

Even with this oil, high oil price, we have problems now. We have no GDP growth. We have already for a year no growth of industrial output. We are facing big problems next year already.

Mr. Putin is responsible for that. He just lost the, I would say, growth period when oil prices and gas prices were high. And Russia could issue a lot and could jump up in its development. Simply, those money were eaten (ph) and just we have such, I would say, undertaken ahead as you have correctly described, just political prisoners (INAUDIBLE) like in Soviet Union. That's absolutely wrong direction.

And Ukraine, suffering because of this, because of change of policy internally and externally.

AMANPOUR: You're a politician. You're still politically active.

Where do you see the hope for any kind of democratic, reasonably transparent representative politics taking place right now?

KASYANOV: Me and my party, PARNAS, we absolutely have no doubt that the only way is peaceful transformation. Peaceful transformation means elections. We don't have elections.

We achieve a little bit; my party finally has been registered, but not because of desire of Mr. Putin, but because of decision of European Court of Human Rights. We continue to consolidate democratic opposition and it's a difficult process but we are doing this.

Next year will be Moscow Duma city council elections, which is important; could be ranking number four and we consider it -- we have built a coalition. And I think we have a chance to do this.

And I don't believe that Mr. Putin already just lost his, I would say, mind in terms of making himself as a dictator, full dictator. I don't think he would stand forever as now history sometimes happens.

I think he should think about exit strategy. And we can help him to build it up.

AMANPOUR: The Ukranian president refuses to free the jailed opposition leader, Yulia Tymoshenko. She's now gone on hunger strike in support of these protesters.

What is the future of dissent, human rights, people like Tymoshenko, who want to challenge the system, whether in Ukraine or in Russia?

KASYANOV: I think in Ukraine that's a little bit easier situation than in Russia. Unfortunately we now just have political prisoners. That we can that peaceful demonstrators of 2012, which already are more than one year in jail without any special, I would say, incrimination and they did nothing to be in jail.

Pussy Riot group also, these girls in jail for nothing. And many other scientists and even businessmen -- Ms. Mikhail Khodorkovsky (ph), for instance, thinking to be there -- that's why -- that's why we believe that political prisoners exist in Russia.

And Mr. Putin doesn't want to admit that. But the problem is Russia is a full member of the Council of Europe. And Russia ratified the European Chapter of Human Rights, the European Convention of Human Rights and Political Freedoms. And Russia right now doesn't implement any of those positions.

That's what the question is to European leaders, why Mr. Putin managed to get a special ticket, not to implement international obligations. (INAUDIBLE) European countries, some problems appear, immediate reaction visible if in Russia continue everyday violations take place, nothing takes place.

Russia's strong country. Of course Russia supplies a lot of natural gas. But that should not be some kind of compromise that people, leaders should not close their eyes on those violations in Russia. And that's why there should not be, I would say, compromise on principles.

AMANPOUR: On that note, former Prime Minister Kasyanov, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

KASYANOV: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: Not much celebrating in Ukraine today, unlike in the United States, where it is Thanksgiving Day. It's the biggest national holiday and it's an occasion for pithy comments and observations of centuries past, such as this one from the great Mark Twain, who observed that early immigrants to America, quote, "had something to be thankful for -- if they has succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors, the Indians.

"As the years drifted on," said Twain, "it was perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all on the white man's side, consequently on the Lord's side; hence it was proper to thank the Lord for it and extend the usual annual compliments."

Now when we return, food and giving thanks from another bitter divide, the bountiful kitchens of a Palestinian and an Israeli master chef, who together make up Ottolenghi.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. And it is Thanksgiving holiday in the United States and Americans around the world are celebrating, too. It's the favorite American holiday; it's not religious. There are no obligations other than to eat a hearty meal while surrounded by family -- that is, for those who can afford it and actually have a family to be around.

"Time" magazine has recently noted the global explosion of food and master chefs as influence peddlers for our time. With food festivals increasing around the world, and star chefs going by first name only, Pesson (ph), Gordon, Jamie, Nigella and now Ottolenghi.

The brainchild of the Israeli Yotam Ottolenghi and the Palestinian Sami Tamimi, their new cookbook, "Jerusalem," has sold hundreds of thousands of copies around the world. Their delis and restaurants are piled high with sumptuous displays that can be found in any Middle Eastern souk.

And then there are the politics, an Arab and a Jew together? Projecting hope and the prospect of bridging their historic divide. I sat down with Ottolenghi, Yotam and Sami -- bugger. Sorry. This was not completed.



AMANPOUR: Sami and Yotam, welcome. Thank you for joining me.

Let's talk about food now and how it's become a major part of the zeitgeist.

"Time" magazine devotes its cover to it, "The Gods of Food." "Meet the people who influence what and how you eat." And sure enough, Ottolenghi, Yotam and Sami, are inside.

SAMI TAMIMI, CELEBRITY CHEF: The world is getting so small at the moment and people are looking for the next thing all the time. And I think this is why you see different kind of parts of the world shine in their cuisine because they have the platform to do it.

YOTAM OTTOLENGHI, CELEBRITY CHEF: People really want to show off their culture through their food because it's the one identifying that any person in another place can understand.

And also it's an international language. So it's very easy to talk this language.

TAMIMI: It's also a way to express yourself and basically show off.


AMANPOUR: But what about the food? What about hummus? There's a bit of an argument between Israelis and Jews, Arabs and Palestinians, over who owns hummus.

And who owns the falafel (INAUDIBLE)?


OTTOLENGHI: It's so difficult, because in the Middle East, as people normally know, everything is very fraught. And with emotions, with history and the food still has the same kind of treatment. You know, people see their food as part of their heritage. And just as they see the land and the history and the stories.

So, you know, with food, they can argue who was the first to eat hummus or make hummus and who makes the best falafel , whether it's Jews or Arabs. So it becomes political immediately. And it can become difficult. But it can also be fun.

TAMIMI: If you go back in history, you will never find out. And they --



AMANPOUR: OK, well, that's magnanimous of you.

Do people project onto you their politics? Do they see you somehow as peacemakers through food, as a bridge builder?

TAMIMI: People see hope. People see this kind of weird connection between a Jew and a Muslim. And it gives them somehow, I don't know, like a ray of light to the whole story.

OTTOLENGHI: I always have to remind people that we are not typical representatives of our cultures. We live far away. So in a way, our friendship hasn't had to suffer all the stresses that it might have had to suffer if we were back in Jerusalem or Palestine or Israel. It's a very different kind of relation.

But we just became very good friends.

AMANPOUR: Could you have done this joint enterprise, a Jew and an Arab, in Jerusalem or in Palestine?

TAMIMI: I don't think so. I mean, we could be friends, but not business partners. With every suicide bomber, with every political crisis, it splits people, starts asking questions, become critical. And I think for us here in London, you know, an international city far removed from the -- all the stress of the Middle East, it's kind of easy.

But over there, it would have been very difficult.

AMANPOUR: Your book has been translated into many languages, but not into Hebrew and Arabic.

Why not?

TAMIMI: Good question. I don't think we get enough credit from Israel and the Arab world. And the Arab world is a little more difficult - - different than Israel because they are very, very conservative about their food and what they try and not try.

OTTOLENGHI: And we break the rules because we take the Palestine or any Arab or Jewish food and we kind of play around with and make unusual combinations and if you're a traditionalist, you won't do that. The book has not been translated also because it's -- our relationship is quite controversial because you know, it's a Jew and an Arab working together and creating.

AMANPOUR: We speak about this in the context, of course, of these incredible divides. There's a so-called peace process going on right now between Israel and the Palestinians. We don't know where it'll lead.

"For peace, you have to understand the story of the other."

Do you understand the story and accept the story of the Palestinians and vice versa?

OTTOLENGHI: Yes, I have always felt very strongly about the story of that particular other, which is the other that we've got, you know, you're our neighbors. And I've always felt very empathetic and also that our faiths are entangled, you know, that there isn't just Palestinians and Jews.

If -- we are bound to live together. So you have to make it work. And in order to make it work, you need to be very respectful of that otherness. And I've -- I think part of the reasons why we have such a good relationship is because we're -- both of us are not extremely chauvinistic about our culture.

You know, we're -- you know, we are very accepting to others, all others. And so it's come -- it's quite easy. I don't need to make a huge effort to become friends with Sami because we -- it's just come very naturally.

AMANPOUR: And Sami, as an Arab growing up in East Jerusalem, do you understand the history (INAUDIBLE) Jews?

TAMIMI: Yes, I understand, and I do accept the whole situation, sadly, because I grew up in a house that it doesn't matter what religion you are, as long as you are a good person, you're accepted. Now that I went last -- they still accept but they -- their life is so difficult that you can hear this kind of tone of voice every time they mention Israelis because the situation is not very nice.

OTTOLENGHI: It's very challenging with a wall that has been erected around Jerusalem for people, for Palestinians to conduct their daily lives. So in the past, it might have been more theoretical. Now it really affects everyday life, every movement. So it's hard not to be bitter about it.

AMANPOUR: What do they think about you being partnered with a Jew?

TAMIMI: They're very supportive. They're very, very supportive.

They wanted to hear that he is actually accepting me and understand me before they actually say yes to him, which is (INAUDIBLE).


AMANPOUR: So you had to get approval from the family?

OTTOLENGHI: I don't blame them.


AMANPOUR: You growing up in an Arab household, what role did food have for you?

TAMIMI: A big role; it wasn't just food. It was more like a life science. It wasn't just eating c/ you are hungry. They would discuss while they're having breakfast what they're going to do for breakfast the next day, lunch and dinner and it will go on and on, every day.

AMANPOUR: And the hospitality thing around food?

TAMIMI: It's an open house that people can come in and go and we always have enough food to feed an army. And it was always like this.

OTTOLENGHI: Sami always used to tell me how a group of women used to cook in his house, not only his mother, but all the aunties and grandmothers together for celebrations, for Muslim celebrations. And that's the image I've got of your household, you know, a bunch of women cooking together.

AMANPOUR: Yotam and Sami, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

OTTOLENGHI: Thank you.

TAMIMI: Thank you.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, Halley's Comet comes along every 75 years or so, a rare occurrence indeed. But imagine a world where it's even more unusual for turkey and dreidels to share the same table.

For the first time in 125 years, the all-American holiday of Thanksgiving coincides with the start of the Jewish Festival of Hanukkah, call it Thanksgivingukkah or Hanukkahgiving. It's a double dose of blessings and many Jewish-American families all over the world are relishing the moment with cranberry relish, of course.

Now you might think the two holidays have little in common, but in fact, both were born out of civil war. The eight days of Hanukkah actually have their origin back in 538 B.C., when the Jews, having been conquered and forced into exile by the Babylonians, were repatriated by King Cyrus the Great of Persia, who allowed them to return to Jerusalem and rebuild Solomon's temple, which the Babylonians had destroyed.

Four hundred years later, Jerusalem's new conqueror, Antiochus of Syria, forbade the Jews from practicing their religion and turned the temple into a shrine to Jupiter.

But the Maccabees, the heroes of Hanukkah, led a successful revolt and reclaimed the temple, which stood for over 200 more years until it was leveled by the Romans.

Now as for Thanksgiving, that was the brainchild of President Abraham Lincoln during the dark days of the American Civil War. The stunning Union victory at Gettysburg in 1863 offered hope for an end to the war and Lincoln then decreed a national day of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November, exactly one week after he delivered the famous Gettysburg Address.

So go ahead and have those second helpings of drumsticks and latkes while you can because the next Thanksgivingukkah won't come along for another 76,000 years.

We wish everybody a very happy celebration wherever they are. And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always contact us at our website,, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.