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Merkel: Europe United over Sanctions; NATO Responds to Crimea Referendum; The West Punishes Putin; Imagine a World

Aired March 17, 2014 - 15:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour. Today, payback, but will it hurt the Russian bear? The United States and Europe punished Moscow for the Crimea referendum by slapping travel bans and freezing assets of 28 individuals, specifically linked to Sunday's controversial referendum, including Crimea's prime minister, Sergey Aksyonov and PAs to President Vladimir Putin.

Now to no one's surprise, almost 100 percent marked their ballots to join Russia in Sunday's controversial vote. And just hours ago, President Putin has signed a decree recognizing Crimea's independence. Now the U.S. President Barack Obama has vowed the United States and the West would never recognize this result and announced that Vice President Joe Biden is on the way to reassure NATO allies bordering Russia and Ukraine who are fearful of President Putin's next move.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our message will be clear: as NATO allies, we have a solemn commitment to our collective defense and we will uphold this commitment.


AMANPOUR: And in just a moment, my exclusive interview with NATO's secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who tells me frankly that Putin may even venture beyond Crimea.

And later the view from one of Russia's richest oligarchs on how big a bite today's sanctions will actually take.

But first, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has taken the lead amongst Western allies in try to talk Vladimir Putin back from the diplomatic brink. But now after the Crimea referendum, even she, with so much German business and energy needs tied up in Russia, is solidly at the table when it comes to setting out sanctions.

As the E.U. announced its measures against Moscow, Merkel said that no one had taken this decision lightly, but that Europe is united after Crimea's so-called referendum.

And joining me live from Berlin is Philipp Missfelder. He's the foreign policy spokesperson for Chancellor Merkel's ruling alliance.

Mr. Missfelder, welcome to the program. Let me first ask you in light of these sanctions, which are specifically targeted against a specific number of individuals, how much will they really hurt and how big a message will they send to the Kremlin?

PHILIPP MISSFELDER, FOREIGN POLICY SPOKESPERSON, CDU/CSU: I think, first of all, it's important that we have delivered the united and strong message so Europe is not falling apart, given the fact that there are, of course, different interests in Europe. We have one voice and one voice is that we say this is only the first step of sanctions. If the Russians are not coming back to the table and negotiate in the west ed e (ph) contract group about the future of Crimea.

AMANPOUR: Well, we just said that President Putin has signed a decree, recognizing the independence of Crimea and as I indicated, the NATO secretary general incredibly concerned that there may be moves actually beyond Crimea into Ukraine.

What more can be done in this regard?

MISSFELDER: Yes. The question is which red line -- if -- the question is if the red line -- if the West were drawing a red line or not, we are united on this question and what does the red line need to mean? It means it also -- Moldova made it, also naconic arabaho (ph) or other places, where Russia is deeply involved.

And it's also the question about eastern part of Ukraine and what I -- what Russia should be aware is that it is not only about these 21 persons today. It will be for much more persons as it freeze any visa restrictions if the Russians are not becoming back to the table of negotiations.

AMANPOUR: Well, again, I just want to know how, in your estimation, do you think this will have an effect in concentrating the minds in Russia because -- and I want to bring up this statistics that we have. The Russians have said constantly that this will actually backfire on Europe. But incredibly -- and your defense minister pointed out, actually Russian exports to the E.U. amount to 15 percent of Russian GDP whereas E.U. exports to Russia amount to only 1 percent of E.U. GDP.

Do you believe, when you do the calculations, that Russia will be economically hurt?

MISSFELDER: I think it will have a long-term impact if we would try to hurt the Russian economy. I know that they have reserves. I know the so-called cutin (ph) reserve is still existing that they are able to manage also oil and gas sanctions. This is something we have in our mind.

But it's also a political signal from today and, believe me, the Russian elite loves to go to Europe, loves to travel to Europe, loves to have their assets in Europe. And it's not only about the 21 people being sanctions today. It will also be about a broader scheme of people if they are not negotiating again. And we have to -- they have to have in mind that this will have a long-term impact of their opportunity to participate of the part free world, and I know that they enjoy the life in Europe.

AMANPOUR: Well, we'll most definitely put that Alexander Lebedev after a break, one of the key Russian business men and oligarchs.

But let me first ask you obviously Germany is in a bit of bind because it depends so heavily a third of all its gas and energy comes from Russia.

What other alternatives are you looking at?

MISSFELDER: Just in case, if tomorrow the gas supply from Russia would bring together which I don't predict is going to happen tomorrow, if the Russians will stop the gas supply for us or we would raise sanctions on the oil and gas sector, we will be able to have in the interconnected and linked European energy market course with higher prices the energy supply for Germany. This is -- there's no doubt we have also still reserves in the coal sector in Germany, of course it would theoretically hit our entire climate goals. We once announced that for the particular calculation it's good to know that we are independent from Russian gas.

AMANPOUR: Do you fear -- because some of your politicians have said so; the Social Democrat Party has put out a statement, worrying about a threat to Europe's sovereignty and its security, Chancellor Merkel has said that everybody is threatened by Russia's moves.

Do you think that this is going to develop into a shooting war in Europe?

MISSFELDER: I don't -- I don't exclude that there is an escalation on the ground because there are so many people involved right now in the eastern part of Ukraine in the Crimea, who have also different interests, like than we have, for example. We want to have a peaceful agreement. We want to come back to a legal framework of the international -- given by the international law, which could be accepted -- also for the new government in Kiev and also for the Russian government. And but you never know what's happening on the ground. But I would say the probability of military confrontation between -- among NATO and Russia, this is below 1 percent.

AMANPOUR: All right. On that note, Philipp Missfelder, spokesman for the ruling alliance on foreign policy, thank you very much indeed.

And speaking of NATO, it already has reassessed its relations with Russia since this crisis began, suspending all practical cooperation with Moscow and hinting at more of such moves to come. Ukraine is not a NATO member but it is a partner with the allies' full support for its territorial integrity.

I spoke with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Brussels earlier. He was in the midst of crucial meetings on the alliance's next moves. And he told me that the situation could very well escalate as Russia builds up its military presence along the Ukraine border.


AMANPOUR: Secretary General, welcome to the program.

Let me ask you, first, why is President Obama sending the vice president over to talk to NATO allies?

How does NATO reassure allies?

RASMUSSEN: We have strengthened air policing in the three Baltic states. We have deployed AWACS planes to improve surveillance of the whole situation. We have stepped up military exercises to make sure that everybody understands that NATO is an alliance with the clear goal to defend and deter against any threat.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Secretary General, we're obviously in a cycle of military muscle. We have a map here which shows NATO members bordering Ukraine and then, on the other side, Russia.

Are you concerned that whatever NATO does might ratchet up the tension?

RASMUSSEN: On the contrary. We know from experience that determined actions to defend and deter could have a de-escalation effect.

AMANPOUR: There are, obviously, a lot of concerns about what might happen next.

How do you assess the danger and the risks of Russian military exercises on the borders of Ukraine itself, the eastern and southern borders of Ukraine?

And do you fear that there might somehow be some kind of shooting war that might erupt, whether intentionally or otherwise?

RASMUSSEN: We are, indeed, very much concerned about the military buildup along the Ukrainian borders. And we strongly urge Russia to deescalate the situation. We have seen a Russian military intervention in Crimea and we are, of course, concerned. And there is still the possibility that the Russian military intervention will go beyond the Crimea.

AMANPOUR: And are you concerned that Russia is potentially stirring up trouble inside that part of Ukraine, whether it's Donetsk, whether it's anywhere, as a pretext for intervention?

RASMUSSEN: Absolutely. That is -- that is a possibility. That is a clear risk. That would further deteriorate the whole situation.

AMANPOUR: The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has been speaking quite strongly about all of this. She has said that Russia has resorted to, quote, "the law of the jungle," and she says the action in Crimea, quote, "If Russia continues with its aggression, we, the neighboring states, would understand this as a threat to us."

Those are fighting words, aren't they?

RASMUSSEN: Well, I think it's a reality. This goes, actually, beyond Ukraine. Obviously, it is first and foremost a crisis in Ukraine. But it is a -- the Russian actions constitute a threat to overall Euro-Atlantic security. It is a Russian attempt to redraw the map, the European map and create new dividing lines in Europe. So a lot is at stake.

AMANPOUR: And finally, how do you see this de-escalating, seriously?

RASMUSSEN: Well, actually, to be very honest about it, right now, I don't see any de-escalation. On the contrary, I see a Russian military build-up and this is a matter of concern.

AMANPOUR: Well, on that gloomy note, Secretary General Rasmussen, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.

RASMUSSEN: You're welcome.


AMANPOUR: So that worried view from Brussels -- and of course it isn't just Crimea's pledge of allegiance that's changing. It is also time; Crimea is joining Moscow time, but also its money is changing. The Russian ruble will now be Crimea's second official currency along with its Ukrainian counterpart until 2016, when the ruble will be the only coin of the realm.

That there is Peter the Great on the 500-ruble note. He's a 17th century czar who expanded the Russian empire and made it a European power, an inspiration, perhaps, for Russia's 21st century expansionist Vladimir Putin?

And after a break, Alexander Lebedev is worth his weight in rubles many times over and he can't be bought by the Putin government, a Russian oligarch with his own mind and the willingness to speak it, when we come back.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program, with so much debate about how much these sanctions will hurt and who, who better to ask than one of Russia's famous oligarchs. With the econ pain ever part of Vladimir Putin's political calculations on the Crimea graph, it certainly does worry many of Russia's business elite, with one report that Russia's top 10 billionaires have lost a combined $6.6 billion of their net worth over the past week alone.

So let's go now to Moscow and speak to Alexander Lebedev. He's a former KGB agent turned billionaire business man and he once was a Putin ally, but he is now a critic. He also runs and owns two of Britain's leading newspapers.

Mr. Lebedev, welcome. Thank you for joining me. I hope you can hear me OK there in Moscow.

ALEXANDER LEBEDEV, "THE INDEPENDENT": Yes, thank you very much, Christiane. I've been listening to you, but I think most of the facts you've given are right.


LEBEDEV: Except for I'm still being an oligarch.


LEBEDEV: I'm a newspaper proprietor.

AMANPOUR: All right.

LEBEDEV: One here, which is an independent Novak Gazeta (ph) and just a couple of Britain.

AMANPOUR: Well, I'm going to ask you about --


LEBEDEV: (INAUDIBLE) I'm not a politician, an oligarch or a military.

AMANPOUR: OK, but you are, let's say, a business elite. So do you --

LEBEDEV: (INAUDIBLE) question about --

AMANPOUR: -- my --

LEBEDEV: -- think about what's going on?

AMANPOUR: Yes, indeed. What do you think about the sanctions --

LEBEDEV: I'm more --

AMANPOUR: -- Mr. Lebedev, and will they hurt?

Mr. Lebedev, will the sanctions hurt?

LEBEDEV: No, I don't really think so. First of all, I think the Western side of the equator is a bit in love with certain spheres of the Russian dirty money. And secondly, I don't think any restrictions of travel for any members of the parliament or Russian Federation, are really anything of substance.

But let me start from the question, what's going on and who's responsible. There are definitely two absolutely diametrically opposite views on it. One is that why shouldn't Russia, which means Putin, because he's the one who runs everything here without any other institutions, is not able to defend Russian's Ukraine. He's a Tartar, owning foreign territory, well, there's a threat to that.

And there's a lot of argument like Falklands or Kosovo or Iraq or Libya.

And the other point of view is completely opposite to that, which is that the regime in Kremlin is scared that what happens in Ukraine and being itself corrupt is worried about the same course of events in Ukraine and they want to nip it in the bud.



LEBEDEV: But can I not judge on what is the real reason, but say the following: if tomorrow any of the parties, the politicians who are responsible for everything which might happen, hot war or a cold war, which definitely is moving at least the second option closer and closer to us, and I've been an officer, as you rightly said, in the KGB intelligence during the Cold War. And didn't like it at all. Really now we probably might pay a much bigger price for it, because Russia is much more involved in the world economy.




AMANPOUR: Mr. Lebedev? Mr. Lebedev?

LEBEDEV: -- for Crimean conference to deal -- yes?

AMANPOUR: I do -- I do actually need to interject, because I really must ask you a couple of questions.

I understand your view --

LEBEDEV: I know. I know it's your job.

AMANPOUR: Yes, yes, yes.

LEBEDEV: (INAUDIBLE) Crimean conference on the sanctions, I don't think at the moment we're hearing anything serious about it.

But frankly speaking, of course, we have the credit lines, syndicated allowance, access to the world international markets of capital are cut, the Russia would suffer.

AMANPOUR: Exactly.

LEBEDEV: (INAUDIBLE), this is the type of go away (ph). So what I want to say, it is much easier to have tomorrow a Crimean conference to deal with the issue which is much less difficult than the February of 1945, when Roosevelt, Churchill and --


LEBEDEV: -- Stalin dealt with a much worse problems in Europe and they did it.

AMANPOUR: All right, well --

LEBEDEV: (INAUDIBLE) that is being done, I would think it's not very important who's responsible for what has been happening. If that is not being done, then we would know the answer because --

AMANPOUR: All right, Mr. Lebedev --

LEBEDEV: -- responsible, but we will be the ones who suffer.

AMANPOUR: OK, I understand your point there.

Now Ms. Merkel -- it's OK. It's OK. The German chancellor has tried her best to make diplomacy work in this regard. It hasn't worked. Many people are afraid that President Putin will not just annex Crimea but go on into Ukraine.

Do you think that's a possibility and do you think the Russian people will support him no matter how far or where he goes or what he does?

LEBEDEV: If you remember the First World War, which started from an incident of a student called Gavrilo Princip shooting six bullets into the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, that you would remember historically that nobody wants to fight. Europe was pretty united. And it was much more similar to what we have in Europe now rather than in before the Second World War.

So what we are risking there is that certain course of events which goes beyond the possibility of politicians doing anything to stop it, so I don't think we would have any Russian troops entering Ukraine. I would probably there speculate on whether Russia interferes or not. And just stabilizing Ukraine, which is one of the points that you have mentioned.

But because I don't have a point of view at the moment, I think there are too many arguments from both sides. What I'm still calling for is a Crimean conference where the countries which have been -- which have been giving their guarantees on the Budapest treaty of denuclearization of Ukraine 1994, which is European countries with, for example, United Nations, not for example, but clearly -- and the United States, would give guarantees economic security and military to Crimea, maybe becoming like Hong Kong, which is not a very difficult situation. It's much easier than February of 1945.

AMANPOUR: All right. Well, we'll see what exactly happens --

LEBEDEV: -- try to avoid any scenario coming forward.

AMANPOUR: Well, we'll see what happens, what Mr. Putin says --

LEBEDEV: I don't see what is exactly --

AMANPOUR: -- whether he annexes -- Mr. Lebedev, Mr. Lebedev, I need to ask you a final question.

What do you think will make an impression on Vladimir Putin, if you're saying that the sanctions won't hurt, for instance, some of his allies even, people like the former finance minister is already saying that there are -- there could be tens of billions of rubles of outflow that Russian economic growth will slow to a complete and utter halt.

Do you think those economic calculations played any part or do play any part in Mr. Putin's calculations going forward?

LEBEDEV: I don't think at the moment, Christiane. If you reach tomorrow's (INAUDIBLE) "Washington Post," you will see that definitely Russia will have to pay a price with prices going up because we're too dependent on imports and exports.

So if that happens, which is a Cold War in economic sphere and sort of a -- in other aspects, we definitely will pay the price for that.

But I think Europeans will do the same. So it's never late to do what I'm suggest and then goes the way of escalation procedure. And I think Ms. Merkel is pretty responsible politician. She's calling for something. But I don't think like calling for reprisals or animosity, all of that sort of seeing each other like it has been in February 1945, when there was civil war going on, then it was much worse.

But they have found some solutions. It was not an ideal world, not at all. (INAUDIBLE) been looking at each other for -- they could do it. It's (INAUDIBLE) task. Why couldn't they do it?

AMANPOUR: Well, let's see. Let's see.

LEBEDEV: Do it. That's what I'm trying to --

AMANPOUR: All right, Mr. Lebedev, Alexander Lebedev --

LEBEDEV: -- from your questions. I'm sorry.

AMANPOUR: All right. Well, yes, you deviated and you did it heroically. That was really a world-class deviation, Mr. Lebedev. Thank you very much indeed for joining me from Moscow.

And the --


AMANPOUR: -- has one eye on events in Crimea, which is not funny, and another scanning the globe for a missing airplane. But imagine a pirate ship filled with a country's --




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world where Navy SEALs see a tanker filled with tens of millions of dollars' worth of pirated crude oil and drag it back to Libya. No, this is not a Hollywood action film. The daring operation authorized by President Obama happened this weekend off the coast of Cyprus. The rebel-controlled tanker named Morning Glory, flying, or rather sailing under a North Korean flag, had set off from the Libyan port of Sidra hoping to sell its hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil on the black market, with the world's focus on breakaway Crimea, it is worth understanding this man, Ibrahim Jadran, the 32-year-old self-styled Robin Hood who, for the past eight months, has held Libya's vast oil reserves hostage, demanding a greater share of the petro pie to help create a separate country called Cyrenaica. Back in January on this program, he brazenly defended his right to Libya's national resource.


IBRAHIM JADRAN, PETROLEUM FACILITIES GUARD (through translator): We are determined to export oil in order to secure finance for the military, the police and the administration, particularly the troops that protect the oil facilities. We will do that in the near future.


AMANPOUR: Mr. Jadran's plan has been foiled for now. Morning Glory and its cargo are being returned to Libya.

But too late for the former prime minister, Ali Zeidan, who was forced to resign and flee the country over this tanker crisis. A few months ago, he, too, was my guest on this program and his answer to this question now seems prophetic.


AMANPOUR: Your oil industry, which is your lifeline, is shut down.

Is Libya a failing state?

ALI ZEIDAN, LIBYAN PRIME MINSTER (through translator): Libya is not a failing state. The state of Libya doesn't exist yet. We are trying to create a state.


AMANPOUR: Three years after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi, Libya remains a nation fractured and adrift on a sea of oil.

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.