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A War of Deception in Eastern Ukraine; Interview with Dmitry Peskov, Putin Spokesperson; Imagine a World

Aired February 25, 2015 - 14:00:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: trying to secure the fragile cease-fire in Eastern Ukraine. President Putin's right-

hand man joins me in an exclusive interview: Dmitry Peskov from Moscow.

And also ahead, sharing a border, Norway is a key NATO member and the defense minister tells me the West's relationship with Putin's Russia has

changed profoundly.


INE ERIKSEN SOREIDE, NORWEGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER: . we are faced with a different Russia. It is not going back to some sort of normality or some

sort of acting normal business because that normality does not exist.



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

Today, the Ukrainian military announced that none of its soldiers had been killed in the war-battered East for the first time since the February

15th cease-fire. Progress perhaps, but also a grim reminder of the fragility of the truce between Ukraine and Russian-backed rebels. And in a

moment, I will talk to President Putin's closest Kremlin adviser.

But meanwhile, Britain has announced that it will send military advisers to Kiev to provide medical, logistical, infantry and intelligence


Estonia, a worried Baltic State, marked its Independence Day this week by parading NATO military hardware.

And Norway, which borders Russia, says that NATO needs to increase spending and its preparation to better meet any future such challenges.

The defense minister, Ine Eriksen Soreide, joined me here in the studio and admitted that from the start, the West has fundamentally misread

Putin's intentions. And I spoke to her a short while ago.


AMANPOUR: Minister Eriksen Soreide, welcome to the program.

SOREIDE: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Thank you for joining me. And let me ask you as Norway, as Europe, as NATO -- and here we have this map showing how closely your

country abuts Russia -- what impact does the activities in Russia have on you?

SOREIDE: Well, of course, this makes us -- we think our defense planning not because we see an imminent military threat from Russia towards

Norway now, but we know that intentions can change quickly.

AMANPOUR: And how more prepared? Because we've gone through a year now. We've got sanctions. And yet it hasn't really deterred President

Putin militarily.

SOREIDE: We do this along two lines. First and foremost, we need to be prepared to handle issues and to handle episodes in our own close areas.

And that's why we have also put some more of our frigates and also our airplanes towards the north in order to be able to go up and identify as

everyone else does as well.

At the same time, we need to prepare for a more vigilant NATO. We are currently meeting the 20 percent investment goal. And we are upping our

defense budgets by 3.3 percent for 2015. We have to continue to do that. And we have to stop the decline. That's maybe one of the most important

things right now, to stop the decline in order to do necessary reforms of our armed forces.

AMANPOUR: As we talk about upping NATO's defenses, do you believe right now that this Minsk cease-fire is holding?

SOREIDE: No, I don't think so. And I was quite keen on underlining when the agreement was a fact that I think we need to be prepared for this

not to happen as we expect it to.

And what we have seen during the period of so-called cease-fire in the Minsk agreement is that facts on the ground are changing again. And

especially the Russian side is using that period of time to both up their military presence but also to change the facts on the ground, which makes

it even more difficult, of course, to reach a political agreement.

AMANPOUR: Everybody has tried to get into President Putin's mind, what does Putin want? So now we understand that the heavy weapons are

starting to be pulled back, yet they did win Debaltseve, the strategic town after the cease-fire. And there are concerns they may move on the

strategic port of Mariupol.

Do you think that historically you have misread Putin's intentions, that you've simply not taken them seriously enough?

SOREIDE: Well, I think that what the whole of NATO has to realize after Georgia was that because we wanted to see Russia as a strategic

partner, we tried to look at Georgia as a deviation from that path, not as something that he wanted to communicate. And as --


AMANPOUR: As an exception?

SOREIDE: As an exception, that's right.

If you look back at it, in hindsight, you would easily see that the rhetoric that he used in Georgia is something that we see coming again now

in Ukraine and the aggression that he uses in Russia, is posing to Ukraine is, of course, something that causes alarming concern in many countries,

especially the eastern allies of NATO.

And we do what we can to reassure them and to be present in order to tell them that they are NATO countries and Article V applies to them as


AMANPOUR: Well, the Baltics and your country, this country, have seen Russia probing and provoking over the last months and years; in fact, your

country released some video of an exchange or an encounter between a fighter pilot and a Russian fighter pilot. And we've got that on the wall

right now.

Are you worried that actually this could go further than just sort of provocation, that could accidentally lead to some Article V, some war?

SOREIDE: Well, what we see in the High North is almost the same activity as before Ukraine. But we see more complex activity, especially

in the air. We have not seen breaches and violations of our airspace. But in the Baltic Sea they have seen multiple violations and much increased


What we are very concerned about is to not have channels to communicate with the Russians. So we keep our channels open between our

operational headquarters, even though we have suspended all the military cooperation and that is exactly to avoid miscalculations and

misunderstanding that could easily happen in a situation like this.

AMANPOUR: You've spoken a lot about hybrid warfare, war by deception. We hear endlessly the Russians denying that they have anything to do with

the separatists except spiritual backing.

They are waging a war of deception, the little green men, the people who go in without insignia. You've talked a lot about that.

But the question is, you recognize it, but are you winning it?

Most people think actually the West is losing this war.

SOREIDE: Well, I think there are two important parts of this and when it comes to NATO and the international community.

The first is to actually define what we see. Aggression is aggression, whether there are small green men or it is an information

campaign or a cyber warfare or conventional warfare, because that's what's backing all of it up, the fact that you have huge forces on the border to

Ukraine and sometimes over the border actually makes it possible to do these (INAUDIBLE) on the inside.

Secondly, when you have decided and defined, you need to decide what to do with it and I think it's important to realize that the decision

structure in NATO is working quite slowly if something was to happen. That is something that --

AMANPOUR: Too slowly.

SOREIDE: -- that is something that we need to work on.

And secondly, my concern is that our ability to decide is also being influenced by all the currents going on in the European countries right now

of national location, of political polarization that makes it even more difficult to decide on a NATO level what to do.

AMANPOUR: Well, you, when you talk about deciding you've basically said if it looks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, it is a duck.

And yet many world leaders, notably in the United States, have been very concerned about making that connection, wondering, wow, what can it


What will it do?

Will it further aggravate the situation?

Will we further enrage President Putin?

SOREIDE: Well, on the contrary. I think it is very important to actually say what we see because what is happening right now is aggression

towards Ukraine. It is nothing else and it cannot be marked or labeled as something else.

Hybrid warfare has been going on for ages. This is nothing new. It takes new shapes and forms. It always does.

But this is nothing new as a concept. And we need to be able to address that because our -- at least our Eastern allies in NATO expect

Article V to go as much for them as it does for anyone else if something was to happen. That does not mean that it's going to happen.

But we need to prepare for different security policy situation. We need to prepare that we need a different Russia and that's how the

situation is.

AMANPOUR: Do you see the West being able to get back to a status quo antic (ph), having a partnership with President Putin's Russia?

Or has that boat sailed?

SOREIDE: Well, I've said several times that when the dust settles and we've come to some sort of political agreement on Ukraine, we are faced

with a different Russia. It is no going back to some sort of normality or some sort of acting normal business because that normality does not exist.

That does not mean that we will not have a cooperation with Russia. Norway has had for decades, we have both a practical and pragmatic

cooperation and we still have a lot of it. But we are faced with a different Russia.

I want to warn against the fact that some people see this as something bad is going to pass. The situation has changed and it has changed


AMANPOUR: And let me switch gears totally. Norway and all the Scandinavian countries have been very much ahead of the curve in empowering

women, in jobs, in the government, in all sorts of workplaces.

It is, though, quite extraordinary that you are part of a gang of female defense ministers across Europe right now. I think there are four

of you.

SOREIDE: Five, actually.

AMANPOUR: Five. Well, good, that's unprecedented.

Does it make a difference, do you think, around the negotiating table?

SOREIDE: Well, it's very difficult for me to say if it makes much of a difference. But I think it makes the difference in one sense and we can

-- we saw it also at the last ministerial in NATO just a couple of weeks ago. Germany, Norway and the Netherlands are now forming a pilot for the

very high readiness joint task force. And we're doing this this year.

And I have to say that being three female ministers of defense, I think we put it together quickly and much more quickly than some of our

male colleagues maybe would have done because we want to see results and we want to see them quickly.

AMANPOUR: Ine Eriksen Soreide, thank you so much for joining me.

SOREIDE: Thank you for having me.


AMANPOUR: So Norway's defense minister breaking boundaries and trying to protect borders.

Just ahead, I speak exclusively to President Putin's press secretary, his right-hand man, rare insight into the very top of the Russian

hierarchy. That's next, after a break.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

Heavy weaponry is on the move inside Eastern Ukraine as pressure mounts on government and separatist forces to withdraw their artillery in

accordance with the Minsk agreement signed two weeks ago. But the OSCE, the organization monitoring the pullback, said that it can't yet tell

whether the weapons are moving back or simply moving around.

Tonight a rare view from the Kremlin: Dmitry Peskov is the presidential press secretary and the deputy chief of the president's

executive office. And few people know the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, better than he does.

Of course, we had hoped to have him in our Moscow studio, but he's just been in a meeting with the president at the Kremlin and he joins me

now by phone.

Dmitry Peskov, welcome back to our program. We're very pleased to have you. And I just wanted --



AMANPOUR: Good, good. I just want to start by asking you, you've just come from a meeting and you heard that the OSCE can't be sure whether

at least from your side the heavy weaponry is moving back.

Can you give a clarification on that?

PESKOV: Well, of course, I don't think that I can give a clarification on behalf of OSCE because they're working there itself. And

they're monitoring the process there, there in the southeastern region of Ukraine. And we're here in Kremlin.

But also what we witnessed last couple of days is that what the process is very shaky and the process of withdrawal is very shaky. But

last couple of days this militia men of Donetsk, they started to withdraw their heavy artillery and we saw the (INAUDIBLE) footage of that


Also we know that Donetsk people have applied to OSCE with a demand to witness the withdrawal and to monitor the withdrawal and unfortunately,

well, we had received information that OSCE refused to witness the process. So they have some difficulties there.

But let's hope altogether that those difficulties are of technical nature and that the process will go on, will go on. Definitely we hear --

we hear mutual accusation. I mean, they're accusing each other of not performing well. But the one thing that we know for sure that is now --

it's much more better there.

Much more better in comparison with the period prior to Minsk.

AMANPOUR: All right.

PESKOV: -- the Minsk agreement.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you this, then, because obviously after the Minsk agreement was signed, several days later, the separatists took the

strategic town of Debaltseve and in fact President Putin urged the Ukrainian government to withdraw the troops there.

Now the OSCE reports that there has been shelling in places like Donetsk, but especially Mariupol.

Can you tell me whether these separatists are going to be allowed to move on Mariupol? And the French foreign minister and other leaders have

said if they do, that triggers another round of sanctions.

PESKOV: Well, actually Moscow is not a country -- I mean, Russia is not a country that is allowing or not allowing separatists to move towards

one city or one village or another.

AMANPOUR: Do you think they will?

PESKOV: -- Debaltseve -- excuse me?

AMANPOUR: Do you think they will? Do you think they will? Or is Russia encouraging them not to?

PESKOV: I don't think so. I mean, those people, those people are responding, are responding to hostile action, hostile attacks against their

own soil, against their own people. I mean, they are endangered and they are responding. There -- it's another question.

But you mentioned Debaltseve. Unfortunately, after signing Minsk agreement, what happened there was actually -- there was prognosed by

President Putin at the night of signing of Minsk agreement. It was signed in the morning. And right after that, we all saw the press conference of

President Putin and he said that there are lots of Ukrainian military people surrounded there in Debaltseve. And we can't make an easy prognose

that unfortunately those people will try to escalate from that surrounding, trying to clear up their way using guns, using heavy artillery and all the

means they have at hand. And that happened actually. That's why after the signing with Soviet camps (ph) of those Ukrainian military, well, they were

inside the circle to escape from that circle. And definitely militia men of Donetsk, they responded to that and to those attacks.

So it was easily prognosible and was prognosed. But now we do witness the situation improving there in terms of cease-fire.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Peskov, can I ask you to react to a story in your own Russian newspaper, a newspaper in Russia, the "Novia Gazetta," which has

said that -- and let me quote -- that "the Kremlin sought to annex Crimea and destabilize Eastern Ukraine even before the Ukrainian government's fall

last year," the fall of the Yanukovych government.

Is that true?

PESKOV: Well, this is not true. This is not true. Well, or maybe, maybe -- I mean, I cannot exclude because I don't know the paper. I don't

know who is author of the paper. I don't know who is accuracy of the paper. But I know -- I don't know that place where the people were

submitted and I don't know by whom it was submitted.


PESKOV: So then -- so I -- well, it's a paper. It's a newspaper. It -- sometimes they make -- well, unimaginable publications and I don't see

any reason for us to react. The only thing I can tell you, even if kind of that paper exists, it has nothing to do with the Kremlin. And it has

nothing to do with official papers in Russian government.

AMANPOUR: Let me move on to what's going on right now. The British Foreign Secretary Fallon has said -- and I'll quote -- this week that Mr.

Putin presents, quote, "a real and present danger to the three Baltic nations and thus to NATO itself."

He said that Russia is now, quote, "as much as of a threat to Europe as the Islamic State is."

What is your reaction to that, given many NATO countries worry about Russian jets and other ships and the others provoking and probing in Baltic

air and water space, even here on the coast of Cornwell, which is pretty far west here in Great Britain?

PESKOV: Well, definitely newcomers in European Union and (INAUDIBLE), well, relatively newcomers, I think that their public opinion is very, very

fragile in front of -- in front of estimations, in front of statements coming from the old-timers like Great Britain. And definitely I mean this

-- well, high-ranking politicians makes their statements and those statements affect those newcomers.

Well, there is a story about these statements that you have mentioned right now. I mean, they're definitely -- well, they do not contribute;

they do not contribute to cooperation. They do not contribute to security, establishment of security. They do not contribute to our secure and

predictable future. And they, unfortunately, they have -- they do not reflect the reality. They do not reflect the real -- the real situation in

-- on our joint European continent.

AMANPOUR: So let me just --

PESKOV: We're very sorry about those --

AMANPOUR: -- I'm sure you don't like those comments. But let me ask you then, what is the point of Russian jets buzzing the coast of Cornwall?

I mean, twice in the last month, British have had to scramble jets to escort yours away from the coast.

What's the point?

PESKOV: Well, every time, every time they start to make buzz, Russian jet planes or military planes, navigating in international corridors, every

time they make this buzz, willingly or unwillingly, they forget to mention name to plane, British plane and American plane doing the same in the same


So it's international practice; it's internationally agreed. It's internationally observed and internationally accepted. Let's remember


AMANPOUR: Let me ask you finally to reflect on the status of your relations with the West. I ask you this because a couple of years ago when

I last interviewed you, you talked about America being an important partner of Russia that America and Russia working together was important for

solving many of the world's difficult and intractable problems.

And you know that going back a decade or so when President Putin was first president, there was quite close cooperation on a variety of issues.

Do you believe that President Putin hopes to return to that kind of status or has he given up on that for good now?

PESKOV: Well, quite unexpectedly -- let's be frank, quite unexpectedly lots of water had passed under the bridges since that time.


PESKOV: So we have witnessed tremendous changes in the global environment, in international relationships. We have witnessed a

tremendous clash of interests, clash of interests in the heart of Europe, in Ukraine. So in the front of a legitimate armed takeover, armed duel

that occurred in Kiev one year ago, Russia took a position -- quite understandable one but very, very frank, very open and very firm. And as

soon as this position is accepted with understanding, I think that we all be ready to resume our cooperation, our interaction that we all desperately

need in order to be effective in combating challenges that we all face.

Right now, unfortunately, we don't have any cooperation in very sensitive affairs, like combating terror, like whatever. And then the

single countries cannot be effective in that.

At the same time, Russia cannot move behind that red line in terms of presuming its -- and ensuring its own national interests. So -- and the

only thing we want is that our national interests, our sovereign rights and sovereign interests, sovereign position is being treated with due respect.

(INAUDIBLE) happens, there will be a time for new renaissance in international relationships.

AMANPOUR: Well, awaiting that renaissance, Dmitry Peskov, thank you very much for joining me from Moscow tonight.


AMANPOUR: Now that was the Russian perspective on the future facing Europe and beyond. And just ahead, we imagine a world where going back to

work is an act of valor. "Charlie Hebdo" gets back to business seven weeks after that awful attack on its Paris offices. Here we go again -- next.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world where going back to business as usual is anything but. It is a bittersweet return to work for

"Charlie Hebdo" today since the brutal office shootings January 7th that left 12 of its staff dead. It has found itself propelled to the front

lines of the fight for free speech and the publication that was struggling financially before the attack is now swimming in new funding from


It's also upped its printing from a few thousand to 2.5 million for today's edition.

"Here We Go Again," declares its latest cover, taking aim at the usual suspects, religion and the Right. National Front leader Marine Le Pen, the

former president Nicolas Sarkozy, the pope, bankers, even a canine jihadist all chase Charlie across the page.

Meantime a new BBC poll here found that a quarter of British Muslims said they felt some sympathy for the motives of the Hebdo attackers. But

that figure is dwarfed by the 68 percent who say that violence against those who publish any images of the Prophet can never be justified.

Almost all of those polls say they feel loyal to Great Britain and its laws.

And that is it for our program tonight. Remember you can always see the whole show online at, and follow me on Facebook and

Twitter. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.