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Russia and Ukraine Trade Blame; Trump Refuses to Condemn Russia; GM Cutting Jobs. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired November 27, 2018 - 09:30   ET



[09:33:29] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, tensions continue to escalate between Russia and Ukraine after Russia seized three Ukrainian navy ships and detained 24 sailors on Sunday. The Ukraine claims that counter intelligence officers were on board those ships and that one officer was seriously injured.

Here's a picture of one of those damaged Ukrainian artillery boats after the attack. A giant hole there from what Ukrainian authorities say was a Russian artillery piece.

The head of NATO, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, says that there is, quote, no justification for Russia using military force against Ukraine. I spoke with General Stoltenberg -- Secretary-General Stoltenberg about what more NATO can do to prevent further Russian aggression.


SCIUTTO: The sad fact is, though, that balancing act that NATO, Europe, the U.S. has tried to perfect here of applying pressure without escalating the conflict, the facts on the ground have not changed. What remains in NATO's arsenal, short of war, frankly, to change Russian behavior? What additional measures can NATO place now besides talking and condemning Russian action?

JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL: Well, we do much more than talking. First of all, talking is important. I really believe that political support for Ukraine is important. But on top of the political support, we also provide a lot of practical support. And we will, when we meet the Ukrainian government of foreign minister (INAUDIBLE) here at the NATO headquarters next week, with all the NATO foreign ministers, we will, of course, discuss what look into what more we can do.

[09:35:07] But we provide all of the significant military support. NATO allies provides equipment, mobile military equipment, and also training and helped to modernize the armed forces of Ukraine, including the naval forces.

So this is political and practical support. But, at the same time, we need to address this issue in a way which doesn't escalate the situation because that can really create a dangerous situation for all of us. We have to remember that in Ukraine there is a war going on and it has -- and it has been going on for four years but at least we have been able to stop that -- Russia has been able to move further west into Ukraine. And that at least something compared to the situation a few years ago.


SCIUTTO: Let's discuss now with Ambassador Richard Haass. He's the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, also the author of "A World in Disarray."

Richard, thanks for taking the time this morning.


SCIUTTO: So you heard Stoltenberg there make the case in effect, you know, defending the west response so far. Military support for Ukraine, diplomatic support, at least we have held Russia back from further gains since annexing Crimea, invading eastern Ukraine.

But yet you have Russia now here attempting another grab to control these waters. Isn't that a sign that the policy is failing?

HAASS: Well, it's also a sign that the geography favors Russia. They've got far more naval and ground forces and, again, they've got proximity on their side. So, you know, what the secretary general is essentially saying, we don't like it, we're not well positioned to offset it, and obviously if push came to shove, Russia is in a better position to prevail than we are.

That said, there are some things we can and should do. And I mentioned too, Jim, one is, as he seemed to suggest, we should increase the quality and quantity of the military articles that we are giving to Ukraine. It may take years for them to integrate them and so forth, but this is a long struggle and to sort of help them deal with the Russian threat in the east and at sea.

And, secondly, NATO ought to take this as a warning that Russia is not a status quo power. Mr. Putin is an outlier. And Russia ought to look at everything it's doing -- and NATO, rather, ought to look at everything it's doing and not doing and say to itself, what more do we need to do so Mr. Putin is not tempted to do the sorts of things he's now doing in eastern Ukraine anywhere in NATO, in Estonia, in Latvia or any other country. This is another wake-up call, and I hope NATO hears it.

SCIUTTO: Let's talk about America's response here, the president's response. You heard President Trump yesterday use something approaching a both sides language here, saying he's not happy, quote, either way. Then you heard Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, while condemning Russian actions, we should note that he then urged restraint on both sides, which is an interesting thing to do when these were Ukrainian ships heading toward Ukrainian port in international waters here.

What message is the administration sending here? And does Russia take that as license to move further?

HAASS: There is a moral equivalence or strategic equivalence message coming out of the administration. I think it's important to say that Nikki Haley, the U.N. ambassador, was much more pointed in her denunciation of the Russians. But both the president and the secretary of state were, quote/unquote, even handed, and I don't -- I don't see why.

And, sure, Mr. Putin does take this as license. Again, he's already got geography on his side. He has the experience that he got away with Crimea. He's getting away with what he's doing in eastern Ukraine. He got away with what he did in Syria.

So I -- what we're seeing with Putin is a pattern of risk taking where essentially he gets enormous return on his -- on his investments. And we've seen it in Europe in the Middle East and I think he correctly calculated here that once again he could -- he could slice off part of Ukraine or, in this case, territorial waters and pretty much get away with it.

SCIUTTO: It sounds like you're saying that this administration is enabling that Russian behavior.

HAASS: Well, enabling is a bit strong, but we're certainly not resisting it. We're not -- we're not deterring it.

Now, again, even if we were more robust, it's not clear to me we could offset it given the geography. And unlike the previous administration, I think it's important to point out that this one is transferring defensive articles to Ukraine. The Obama administration would not. But sometimes in life you are up against facts on the ground, or, in this case, facts on the water. Those favor Russia. And you've got to choose your -- you've got to choose your moments. You've got to choose your locals if you're going to -- if you're going to confront.

SCIUTTO: Ambassador Richard Haass, thanks very much for joining us today.

HAASS: Thanks for having me, Jim.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so ahead for us, the iconic American automaker, General Motors, this morning drawing new backlash from motor city to Capitol Hill after cutting roughly 15,000 jobs just weeks before Christmas.


[09:44:03] HARLOW: This morning, growing anger and anguish as nearly 15,000 General Motors workers wake up to the harsh reality that what President Trump has been promising for years did not come true for them. He promised jobs in a booming auto industry and now, four weeks before Christmas, the president is firing back at GM's decision to shut down five plants in North America.

Cristina Alesci is outside of one of those plants in Lordstown, Ohio. Cristina, I have been there., I have spoken to those workers. You are

doing that today. What is the reaction on the ground? Because that's where he made so many promises that just didn't come true.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Anger, confusion and shock, Poppy. This is a big blow to the local economy. And everyone we spoke to this morning, from the mayor to the small business owners to the union leaders say it's not just about the 1,500 jobs possible impacted here, but it's about the ripple effect. It's about the small businesses who may not see their revenue go up. In fact, go down. It's about the possibility that the school size of the student population may shrink. That might impact school budgets. All of that is on the minds of the community here today. And we're hearing it loud and clear.

[09:45:15] Just to put this into context. This community has been reeling with layoffs for quite some time now. About over 1,000 people were laid off in 2007. Over 1,000 were laid off earlier this year. So it's been a painful couple of years for this community and a real sense of frustration and confusion because GM is using this word unallocated. And people here don't know what that means. They know that the company's going to stop production on the Cruise, which you'll see right behind me, but they don't know if that means there's a possibility that GM will bring production of another vehicle here, some other vehicle that perhaps sells much better than the Cruise, which wasn't selling, and that was the reason for the production to stop in the first place, Poppy.

HARLOW: And I remember going there, Cristina, and seeing, right after the auto bail-out, and how proud the workers were there. They had another big Cruise sign slapped up on the side of the plant. It was a red Cruise at the time and the workers were feeling good. And now those hopes are dashed.

But it's not just that the Cruise wasn't selling, right? I mean some of this has to do with the president's tariffs. He says it's not the tariffs, but GM warned otherwise back this summer, right?

ALESCI: Correct. There is a possible headwind to the entire auto industry, which will have a huge impact. And that's the possibility that the administration puts auto tariffs on imported cars. And that would impact American companies that make cars overseas and import them for sale here in the U.S. And that is a possible headwind.

You know, that specific tariff didn't impact this decision, but steel and aluminum tariffs have been also a big headwind and those were putting -- were taking a bite out of profit of auto makers. GM didn't cite that specifically in the release yesterday or in any of the messaging they put around this, but they probably don't want to anger the administration on top of what is already a contentious situation, obviously, between the administration and GM right now.

HARLOW: And let me just ask you finally, when you look at sort of what's been happening in the auto sector, a million vehicles per month is the decline we've seen since September of last year. That is significant. I mean is this a broader sign of economic pain that is to come? How worried should this make people big picture?

ALESCI: Look, I think that we are seeing certain softening across the economy right now. And, yes, this is an example of that. I think the stock market has been signaling that for quite some time. So, yes.

But I would say that this is a purely local story right now. We're going to have to see how this plays out naturally. But when you start to see demands for vehicles soften like that, most economists will take that into consideration and say, you know, there is some softening in demand.

That said, Poppy, consumer confidence is still high, and that's still driving a lot of spending from a consumer standpoint at this point.


HARLOW: All right, thank you for being there and reporting on the ground, Cristina. Appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: Protesters in Alabama are demanding justice for a 21-year-old African-American man killed by a police officer after a mall shooting. The latest in that investigation is coming up.


[09:53:00] SCIUTTO: Protesters and the family of a 21-year-old African-American man shot and killed by police at an Alabama mall are now demanding to see body camera footage and surveillance video of the incident. These protesters marched through the mall in Hoover last night demanding justice for Emantic Bradford Junior. Police shot Bradford on Thanksgiving night, originally saying that he had shot two people at the mall. They later retracted that saying that Bradford was not the shooter, though he did have a gun. The family's attorney says that Bradford's had a concealed weapons permit and was trying to help people to safety when he was shot. The actual gunmen in the mall shooting has not been caught.

HARLOW: Well, in the wake of so many police involved shootings, we have seen the, quote, unraveling of America on race relations. That is the message from my guest this week on "Boss Files." PWC Chairman Tim Ryan. He made a dramatic change at his company, forcing a candid, sometimes uncomfortable, conversation on race. Now he is pushing all CEOs to do the same. Watch.


HARLOW: A bunch of people advised you not to taken on the issue of race.

TIM RYAN, U.S. CHAIRMAN AND SENIOR PARTNER, PWC: Very candidly, even around my team, which I've very proud of, there were those that felt like we need to be very aggressive. Those -- even my team, very cautious. We had invested millions over decades in programs which are important, but it was clear to me we weren't talking about it.

HARLOW: Yes. RYAN: And so we made a decision to have our first day long discussion on race.

HARLOW: This was something called a conversation (INAUDIBLE) color break.

RYAN: Yes.

HARLOW: What about your critics or naysayers who look at this, Tim, from the outside and they say, what does a white man from, you know, the outskirts of Boston know about the challenges of diversity?

RYAN: Even when we decided to do that day long discussion on race, one CEO said to me that I was visiting clients with, he said, you're crazy. He pointed to me, he said, you're crazy. This is going to blow up in your face.

HARLOW: Really.

RYAN: While I may not be Latino, or black or female, I am a leader of our people. And that's where my responsibility lies to our ethics, to our values, to our people and to our clients. And so I think it's the responsibility, regardless of what you look like or who you are to take this issue on. And that's what we did.


[09:55:08] HARLOW: It was fascinating to hear from him on the issue of race and how leaders have to do something about this in corporate America.

You can hear the full conversation on our podcast, "Boss Files."

SCIUTTO: And often it's the corporate world taking the lead on issues like that.

HARLOW: Yes, now, yes.

SCIUTTO: Paul Manafort may have been Robert Mueller's star witness, but now the special counsel's team is accusing President Trump's former campaign manager of lying to them repeatedly after making that cooperation deal. We're following it all.


[10:00:05] SCIUTTO: We have news this top of the hour. I'm Jim Sciutto in New York.

HARLOW: And I'm Poppy Harlow.