Return to Transcripts main page
Interview With NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg; President Biden Attends NATO Meeting; Interview With Former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired June 14, 2021 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just want all of Europe to know that the United States is there.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Joe Biden busy in Brussels. The president pledges support to U.S. allies in his first NATO summit. The NATO secretary-
general, Jens Stoltenberg, joins me.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: We will be back soon.
AMANPOUR: Netanyahu's long reign ends, and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett gets to work. We talk to former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni about peace
and Israel's political earthquake.
WILLIE NELSON, MUSICIAN: Well, it'd be hard for me to give advice to people because I have made every mistake you can make.
AMANPOUR: American legend Willie Nelson talks to Walter Isaacson about his extraordinary life in music and getting on the road again.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour back in the seat from London.
I want to first thank Bianna Golodryga and the whole team for holding down the fort so well over the last four weeks, which have been a bit of a
roller coaster for me, because, during that time, like millions of women around the world, I have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
I have had successful major surgery to remove it. And I'm now undergoing several months of chemotherapy for the very best possible long-term
prognosis. And I'm confident. I'm also fortunate to have health insurance through work and incredible doctors who are treating me in a country
underpinned by, of course, the brilliant NHS.
I'm telling you this in the interest of transparency, but, in truth, really mostly as a shout-out to early diagnosis, to urge women to educate
themselves on this disease, to get all the regular screenings and scans that you can, to always listen to your bodies, and, of course, to ensure
that your legitimate medical concerns are not dismissed or diminished.
So, that's my news.
Now let's get to the news.
President Biden took part in his first NATO summit today as commander in chief, taking extra pains to assure allies that the United States is back
and has their back and to drive home his view that America needs NATO too.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Article 5, we take as a sacred obligation. And I constantly remind Americans that when America was attacked for the first time on its shores
since what happened back in the beginning of World War Two, NATO stepped up. NATO stepped up and they honored Article
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, the NATO summit communique calls Russia a threat, and it also highlights China's military ambitions for the very first time,
describing Beijing as presenting challenges, this after China angrily has accused the G7 of slander for its statement on human rights abuses in the
And we will get to the secretary-general from NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, in a moment.
But first: Israelis woke up this morning to a new prime minister for the first time in 12 years. Naftali Bennett was sworn in on Sunday, but not
without resistance from Benjamin Netanyahu, whose Trump-style calls of fraud failed to stop the peaceful transfer of power.
Prime Minister Bennett would not be in office if not for his diverse coalition. And the head of the centrist Yesh Atid Party, Yair Lapid.
Correspondent Oren Liebermann reports on the unusual partnership.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They called it a brotherhood, a pact that looked like the odd couple, the religious high-
tech millionaire and the secular television host.
Naftali Bennett came into politics on the right advocating for Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
NAFTALI BENNETT, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): There are no two narratives. There are no two truths. There is one truth. And that truth
is very simple. Greater Israel belongs to the Jewish people.
LIEBERMANN: His roller-coaster political journey took him through a series of different parties since 2008, a constant right-wing thorn in Benjamin
BENNETT (through translator): It should be clear we will not allow the Israeli government to recognize a Palestinian state, under no
circumstances. We will not allow Israel to hand over not even one centimeter of land to the Arabs. This is what we are here for, to guard the
land of Israel, as we have always done.
LIEBERMANN: Now he leaves the Yamina Party with a mere six seats, 5 percent of Israel's Parliament, but enough to become Israel's prime
Former TV host Yair Lapid entered politics in 2013, the surprise story of the election, netting 19 seats with his Yesh Atid Party. The two rookie
politicians formed an alliance then based on a genuine friendship and a commitment not to lie to each other, according to those familiar with the
They used their newfound power for leverage against Netanyahu, a taste of what was to come. Through the years, they found themselves on opposite
sides, but the friendship held, and the alliance reemerged after the last election, a return of the bromance. The two are selling a different future
for politics, not the divisive, polarizing politics of Benjamin Netanyahu, but of politics based on agreements and unity, where your opponent is a
patriot with a different view on how best to help the country.
Their success depends on the most diverse, disparate coalition in Israel's 73-year history, a grand experiment in politics based on a brotherhood that
has lasted so far.
AMANPOUR: So, a new Israeli government will have to deal with a new U.S. administration. One of the things that divided Benjamin Netanyahu from
previous U.S. presidents was the Iran nuclear deal.
Now, there is growing concern about the fate of the upcoming presidential elections in Iran. The man on the left is Ebrahim Raisi, a hard-line
judiciary chief with a brutal record on human rights. And he's the front- runner to replace the outgoing President Hassan Rouhani. That will happen this Friday.
Correspondent Fred Pleitgen has more on what that means for Iran and indeed the world.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what a sprint to the finish line looks like in Iran's presidential
election, churning out posters at the headquarters of conservative front- runner Ebrahim Raisi, the man many believe will be Iran's next president.
His campaign workers already talking about post-election plans.
"The main concern people have is the fall in their incomes," he says. "And when it comes to livelihoods and the economy, we hope to be able to solve
With Iran still in the clutches of the coronavirus pandemic, campaign rallies have been banned in areas with high infection rates, leaving the
candidates to square off in a series of TV debates, with Raisi promising to improve the economy.
"We should try to make the economy self-sufficient," he says. "Tremors shouldn't affect it, not the coronavirus, not floods, not earthquakes, not
The main moderate candidate, Abdolnaser Hemmati, ripped into Raisi and other conservatives' economic plans. "The current economic situation in
Iran is such that most of the colorful and attractive promises made by the other candidates are not possible," he said.
Ebrahim Raisi HAS spent decades in public service in Iran, a conservative hard-liner. He's currently the powerful head of Iran's judiciary, known for
dishing out harsh punishment and many death sentences.
Raisi in Iran 2017 presidential election, but was defeated by moderate incumbent Hassan Rouhani. Now the tables have turned, and many Iranians
blame Rouhani for the country's dire economic situation caused in part by the crippling sanctions imposed by the Trump administration.
TRITA PARSI, FOUNDER, NATIONAL IRANIAN AMERICAN COUNCIL: There is a tremendous amount of anger against The Iranian government because of the
perception that they have really mismanaged the economy. Corruption has gotten much, much worse.
PLEITGEN: Another reason why Raisi is so far ahead in the polls is that Iran's Guardian Council, the body that vets candidates, disqualified many
of those who would have had a chance to challenge him.
"In my opinion, the competition would have been more open, and there should have been a broader selection of candidates," this man says.
That has led to fears of voter apathy and possible low turnout. Even Iran'S supreme leader has criticized the disqualifications and called on people to
"Dear people of Iran," he said, "the election takes place in one day, but its effects remain for many years. Participate in the election."
One major effect could be a shift in Iranian politics towards more conservative forces, just as the country is in negotiations to try and
salvage the Iran nuclear agreement with the U.S. and other world powers.
PARSI: If negotiations have not been completed, and Raisi comes in, it is going to dramatically change the dynamics, not only because he may come in
with some new ideas and uproot what already has been agreed upon, but also he's going to change the negotiating team.
PLEITGEN: Even with subdued campaigning due to the pandemic, this election could prove to be key, shaping Iran's future and its relations with the
West for years to come.
Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.
AMANPOUR: Oren Liebermann there.
So, Iran relations, relations with the new U.S. administration, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not to mention the internal political
earthquake in Israel itself.
We are going straight now to the former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
Tzipi Livni, welcome to our program.
Let me ask you what your reaction is to the transfer of power, to the fact that, for the first time in 12 years, you have a new prime minister, and
one that is really hanging on with a massive diverse coalition.
What is your outlook?
TZIPI LIVNI, FORMER ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER: First, Christiane, I want to send you something that I believe that millions of people all over the
world would like to do now, and this is to hug you, and to say, thank you for sharing this personal information about your health, because it gives
strength to women all over the world.
And you are brave and strong, and you will defeat it.
Now, going back to Israel into our elections, these are good news. I think that -- I believe that the new government, the meaning of the new
government is cessation, or it stops the trend of the last few years, attacks on Israel democracy, trends of delegitimization of political
rivals, especially those believing in peace with the Palestinians.
And, therefore, I hope that the creation of the new government means that maybe this is the beginning of a new discussion within Israel about a
shared vision, even though the government is basically shared political interest for now.
AMANPOUR: Tzipi, I want to thank you for your really kind words.
And I'm going to just be a little bit flip. And I'm going to say at least I have a road map.
You guys still seem to be up the proverbial creek without a paddle when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And you have written a lot about
it, including recently to "The New York Times," about where you think it, and almost at the point of no return.
Do you actually think that this coalition is pragmatic enough, in your words, to actually address the existential threat that faces your country,
which is this continued lack -- this continued conflict?
LIVNI: Well, the issue that was not on the table in the last four rounds of elections was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, unfortunately.
And it is also true that, when it comes to this government, it's a huge gap between different positions within the government, from those believing in
two states for two peoples to those believing in annexation. So, looking at the upside is that nobody can lead to annexation.
But, on the other side -- and this is the downside -- I -- it would be quite problematic or very difficult to move forward toward the two sides'
vision, something that I believe represent the interests of Israel.
But, maybe, maybe, maybe this time, instead of a blame game amongst different parts of Israel politics, people who are politicians or members
of this government would try to listen to each other and, hopefully, will reach an understanding also about this issue.
So, the good news is that we are having a new government. I agree that the idea of two states for two peoples, it's not part of the guidelines of this
government. More than that, the prime minister, Mr. Bennett, expressed his vision of annexation in the past.
But, for now, the idea -- or they are trying to work together without touching this sensitive issue, for better, for worse.
AMANPOUR: And, again, you have written a lot about it.
And I was really struck by the honesty with which you address this issue, because, as you say, you might not want to touch it politically. But we
just saw a four-week war over the very issues, and one that divided different communities inside Israel for the first time and brought the
conflict inside Israel between Arabs and Jews.
And I'm wondering what you think this new government needs -- what kind of relationship does it need to develop with the current American
administration? Because, of course, Trump, as you say, practically gave everything to Netanyahu.
And, as you say, had it all been enacted, including the annexation, there would be no two-state solution. And we've seen the result and the dangers
of a one-state situation.
LIVNI: Well, I believe that the relations with the new administration in the United States or the tone will be changed.
And I believe that we will face an open and quite intimate dialogue, also about issues that are not in a consensus within Israel. But I think that
this is something that we need for now. And this is an intimate dialogue. And I believe that this is what we will have.
Asking about what we faced within Israel in the last operation in Gaza, yes, we saw the streets in Israel, extremists, both sides, acting against
each other in a violent manner. And this created -- for me, it was -- it symbolized how one state would look like if we would not solve the
This is why I personally believe that it's urgent. I believe that it's not sustainable. And maybe if the government, the new government would not want
to touch it or to make decisions, sometimes, realities on the ground would force my friends in the government to make the decision.
But, for now, I believe -- I mean, I'm happy enough, I would say, to have this new government, to have Netanyahu outside of the government, stopping
these trends of attacking law enforcement and the democratic institutions within Israel.
And, as I said before, it's a balance between those that are -- those believing in two states for two peoples, those believing in annexation. So
they will try to avoid this issue. But, sometimes, life decide whether we can turn a blind eye to realities on the ground.
LIVNI: I personally hope that the dialogue will be a completely different dialogue. Instead of delegitimizing the other against -- instead of
portraying those believing in two states as the enemy, so cooperating with the enemies, the idea that all of them are sitting together can create
another dialogue also internally in Israel. And this is my hope.
AMANPOUR: So, you mentioned Netanyahu.
I mean, he's obviously the longest-serving Israeli prime minister. He's been front and center, and the politics and the ground there has kind of
taken on his shape and his vision. Is it goodbye? Is it au revoir? Is he going to be difficult in opposition?
Do you think he is planning to come back? How do you assess his long-term political future?
LIVNI: I think that it's too early to know. And it is true that, in the last few years, it was a mix of his personal interests, the fact that he
was under indictment and the -- a need to take care of his own personal issues, instead of taking care of what Israel needs.
I don't know what he will decide to do. And, frankly, I'm focused on the new government. And I hope that people understand that the idea of just
blaming the other, acting against Israel's democracy, or having this dialogue in this violent manner didn't help him politically. \
So maybe this would be a lesson that, instead of attacking your political rival, maybe it's time to listen. But I'm not that optimistic.
AMANPOUR: Now, Naftali Bennett, your new prime minister, I mean, it's not like he's a centrist or moderate. I mean, he has been Netanyahu's chief of
staff. Many have labeled him everything from extremist, opportunist, pragmatist. He is a settler leader. He believed in annexation.
What do you think he will do as prime minister? What do you think his vision is, not just for the conflict, but internally as well?
LIVNI: Well, I know that all those leaders of parties that decided to work together and to form this government put lots of things aside, also part of
their own political interests, part of -- some put away their personal ego and decided to work together.
So, just not Bibi was good enough to form a government, but it's not giving good enough to move forward. And I believe that they at first, all of them,
including the new prime minister, Mr. Bennett, they will focus on calming down the political dialogue within Israel, which is important.
And they will focus on Israel economy the day after COVID and the challenges that we have. And they need to work together, even though,
politically, they didn't have any common ground or common denominator, speaking about their vision, political vision.
So they will focus. I believe that they will try and find the common denominator on economic issues, social issues, and especially on calming
down and trying to work together, even though they have completely different opinions on some of the most important issues for the future of
the state of Israel.
And frankly, that's good for now. It's important for now. Israel needed it. This is why I'm so happy, even though I have different opinions from some
of the new ministers and heads of parties that are forming this government. But it was very -- it is very important. The formation of this government
created new hope. Let's see where it takes us.
AMANPOUR: So, also, for the very first time, an Arab party is part of a governing coalition. That's a whole new thing as well.
But I want to ask you, because you keep saying certain things happen on the ground, and it could affect and it does affect the dynamics. So, given the
fact that one of the provocations or whatever you want to call it, that led to the last war was the rerouting of -- marching of Israeli extremists who
wanted to march on Jerusalem Day through Arab neighborhoods.
Then, of course, there are the evictions in East Jerusalem. There was the storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, all of the stuff that we know that then
transpired into the war against Hamas. They're planning to do this again, tomorrow, this march, which Netanyahu has called--
AMANPOUR: -- a necessary demonstration of our sovereignty.
Is that smart?
LIVNI: Of course not. It's not smart. It doesn't represent any Israeli interest, the way I say it. The idea of igniting the region for political
reasons, I'm completely against this.
And it's not about who has rights in Jerusalem or on different parts of Jerusalem. It's about being just and smart and try to calm down the
situation instead of giving fuel or reasons to extremists or, again, excuse to extremists to abuse the situation for their own political needs.
So, it's a huge test to the new government and to other politicians, and the message coming from the government is very important, trying to calm
down. And let's hope that we will not face a deterioration tomorrow.
AMANPOUR: And one final question. Of course, it's on Iran and the nuclear deal, because that was a huge bone of contention between Netanyahu and the
Now we have a Biden administration. And he has again thrown down the gauntlet on the Iran issue, using very, very -- very, very heated language
to describe it. Let's just play what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NETANYAHU (through translator): In 1944, at the height of the Holocaust, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt refused to bomb the railway,
leading to the extermination camps, and refused to bomb the gas chambers, which could have saved millions of our people.
And, therefore, I told the U.S. Defense Secretary Austin, who visited here a few weeks ago -- I quote -- "As the prime minister of Israel, I shall do
everything to oppose an agreement that will lead to the nuclear armament of Iran."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Tzipi Livni, two questions, evoking the Holocaust to talk about this issue, but, more to the point, do you think it's in Israel's
interests, actually, to get back into an arms control deal with Iran at this moment?
LIVNI: It is clear. And this is a consensus also within the new government, I believe, that Iran is a threat to Israel. And the Iran
nuclear program poses a severe threat and danger to the state of Israel.
But the question what -- how to work with the United States and how to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon, this is something that needs to
be dealt between Israel and the U.S. I believe that we will have a completely different tone, a completely different dialogue, not blaming the
U.S., not the kind of speeches that we used to hear from Benjamin Netanyahu until now, but something that will send maybe be the same message, but in a
different tone, different voice, in order to have mutual understanding.
What is the best next step of the entire international community regarding Iran's aspiration to achieve a nuclear weapon?
AMANPOUR: It's really interesting to get your perspective and to really hear you describe the landscape changing and the table being set in a new
and different way.
Tzipi Livni, thank you for joining us. And thank you for your support.
LIVNI: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Now to Brussels, and we are joined by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. He's joining me from the summit now.
Welcome to the program. Welcome back to our program, Secretary-General.
Let me ask you, because you gave a press conference shortly after your summit. And it can only be described as really animated, really excited,
and a whole different demeanor to the idea of partnership and American leadership and America being back.
Is that how you feel?
JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL: Yes.
And I promise to answer your question in a moment, but let me, first of all, say that it's always great to see you, Christiane, and especially
today, after the announcement you made about your health conditions.
We all know that you are a very strong person. And I wish you all the best when you now are going to undergo treatment. And we are all with you.
You're such a great inspiration for so many people all over the world.
Then I will answer the question.
AMANPOUR: Well, thank you so much.
STOLTENBERG: And, yes, this was a great summit. It was short.
It was a great summit. It was a fantastic atmosphere. It was like the first day at school for people who have not seen each other for a long time. We
met in person. And knowing that we are 30 allies, we really felt the strength of unity, North America and Europe standing together.
The United States, President Biden sent a very strong message of enduring commitment to NATO. And that was answered with the same message from all
the European allies and Canada. So, it was a great meeting a new chapter in the transatlantic relationship.
AMANPOUR: So, let me let me try to ask you, because you were so proper and dignified and professional throughout the very difficult last four years.
And you were always talking about the solidarity of NATO, despite Trump trashing it all over the place.
How difficult was it? How much of a personal relief do you feel now that you have a U.S. president who's all in on this vital global alliance?
STOLTENBERG: I will try to continue to be professional, and, as I say, not go into all the details about all the -- yes, the different meetings we
STOLTENBERG: But -- because I think that's my task as secretary-general.
But what I can say is that, yes, we had some difficult meetings and some difficult discussions. That was obvious for everyone.
But I think the main lesson learned over those four years was that NATO is stronger than individual persons. We go beyond individual political
leaders. And, for me, that just reinforces the message of having strong multilateral institutions that can weather different political storms and
And that's exactly what NATO did over those four years. And that's the reason why I'm so eager to continue to invest and strengthen NATO alliance,
because that is the security interests of all of us.
AMANPOUR: So, you have talked about how things happened even since your tenure began in 2014 that nobody could have imagined, that Russia, a
European nation, could annex part of another nation for the first time since World War II, that ISIS -- and, of course, this was in 2014 -- could
have taken over this unknown extremist Islamic terrorist group, take over such huge swathes of Iraq and Syria.
Now, all these years later, you have got a new communique, and you're discussing China for the very first time. It's interesting, because you
talk about China is a challenge, as opposed to a threat, but you talk about destructive technologies and how it has to be countered.
Tell me how NATO can position itself against China.
STOLTENBERG: Well, we can do many things.
So, first of all, we need to engage with China only important issues like, for instance, arms control. In the future, China must be part of any
meaningful arms control because China is investing so heavily in new modern military systems. But then, we also need to address the fact that China is
coming closer to us, we see them in cyberspace, we see them in Africa, we see them in the Artic, we see China trying to control critical
infrastructure, we saw the discussions about 5G in our own countries.
So, we agreed today an ambitious forward-looking agenda, NATO 2030, which is exactly about how we can strengthen our resilience, the protection of
our infrastructure, how we can invest more together in technology, new technologies, where China is actually trying to be lead in artificial
intelligence, autonomous systems, totally new weapon systems. And also, how we can work together with partners in the Asia Pacific like Australia,
Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
So, the NATO 2030 agenda is also very much about how to address together as an alliance the security consequences of the rise of China.
AMANPOUR: And Russia, you actually do call in your communique, Russia, a threat. And I just want to ask you whether you think, therefore, before we
get into those details, the upcoming summit or meeting between President Putin and Biden will be productive?
STOLTENBERG: I think it is important that the two presidents meet, and it's also very important and allies welcomed the fact that President Biden
was able to sit down with all the NATO leaders, discuss, consult with them ahead of the meeting with President Putin, because NATO is the platform for
coordination on issues at matters for the security of all of us, and of course the relationship with Russia is of paramount importance.
NATO believes in what we call dual track approach to Russia, and the meeting between Biden and Putin is actually very much in line with that
dual track approach, you need to be strong, we need to turn some defense, but at the same time, we need dialogue with Russia.
Russia is our neighbor. We need to talk to them. And even if we don't believe in the better relationship in the foreseeable future, we need to
manage a difficult relationship, for instance, when it comes to arms control. We welcome the extension on the new START agreement, but that
should only be the first step towards more comprehensive arms control agreements.
AMANPOUR: So, I was really interested by the tone and how Putin chose to speak about President Biden in a recent interview. This is what he talked
about relations with the U.S. and President Biden himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): President Biden, of course, is radically different from Trump, because President Biden is a
career man. He spent virtually his entire adulthood in politics. Just think of the number of years he spent in the Senate. A different kind of person.
And it my great hope that, yes, there's some advantages, some disadvantages, but there will not be any impulse-based movements on behalf
of the sitting U.S. president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, I thought that was really interesting that he compared Biden to Trump and called Biden a professional career politician and there
wouldn't be impulse-based decisions and developments. How do you read that?
STOLTENBERG: I read it as kind of willingness to at least sit down and talk. And Russia is responsible for aggressive actions against neighbors,
cyber-attacks against NATO allies, hybrid threats against many countries all over the world. So, we should have no illusions about Russia. At the
same time, I believe it is possible to also make agreements with them and make some progress on, for instance, as I mentioned, arms control.
Russia and the United States have just agreed to extend a very important deal to limit number of long-range nuclear missiles. I, myself, have also
negotiated with President Putin on the limitation lines, (INAUDIBLE), when I was prime minister of Norway.
Russia respects those agreements. So, we need to understand this kind of combination of being a very aggressive power. But at the same time, in some
areas, it is possible to make deals with Russia. They will respect them. But we need, of course, verification, we need balanced agreements, for
instance, on issues like arms control.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask you a couple of personal and professional questions because your term is coming up, obviously, it is another year.
It's September, 2022. But you have spoken about a whole range of issues and things that have informed your life as a politician. I want to ask you what
-- you know, being in charge of the alliance, you spent some of your young years opposing the Vietnam War, I think you also opposed, at one time, your
own country, Norway's, entry into NATO. And now, you've come full circle.
How does that youthful experience and protest inform your beliefs today, particularly on centrality of the alliance?
STOLTENBERG: Of course, many things have changed since the 1970s. At the same time, my fundamental, as you say, commitment to peace is the same. And
it is correct that I was against the Vietnam War. I still believe that was a wrong word to fight. NATO is now part of it. And in the United States,
there are different views of -- about whether that was right or wrong.
So, I feel, actually, there is a connection between my position as young politician in the 1970s, strongly in favor of peace and also nuclear
disarmament, and my work as secretary general of NATO today. NATO's core or main responsibility, main task, is to prevent war, is to preserve peace.
It's not to provoke conflict. It's not to fight a way.
It is to prevent war. And I strongly believe in the idea of strategic -- that we stand together. And as long as any potential adversary knows that
an attack on all will be regarded as -- an attack on one will be regarded as an attack on all, we will prevent the conflict. And that's the main
purpose of NATO, that's peace, and that was, I still believe, in the '70s and I still believe in that.
AMANPOUR: So, now, fast forward to 2021, the United States and NATO pulling out of a 20-year experience in Afghanistan. The question I want to
ask you, because it is a done deal, is do you believe what some people say, that the Taliban are going to be so eager for international recognition and
acceptance that they're actually going to play by rules of the game, or do you believe that the Taliban are going to go back to (INAUDIBLE) and want
total dominance? You can see they're rolling up through the countryside right now.
STOLTENBERG: I have been very honest and the allies have been very honest and clear about the risks that our decision to end the military presence in
Afghanistan entails. We should have no illusions about the difficulties, the challenges Afghanistan and the role it plays by ending the NATO
presence in Afghanistan.
At the same time, the intention was never to be there forever. After almost two decades, we, at least, have been able to build a professional, strong
Afghan security force, over around 300,000 personnel.
We are ending military presence but will continue to provide support with Afghans, partly funding for security forces, which is extremely important,
with continued civilian presence to help and advice and build capacity. We will also -- we're now working on how to provide out of country training
for African security forces in another country to provide support. And also, to maintain critical infrastructure such as the airport.
Again, there are no guarantees when it comes to the future in Afghanistan. But after 20 years, allies had come to the conclusion that the time had
come to end their military mission, but then continue to provide support in other ways. At one stage, the Afghans have to be in responsibility for
their own future themselves.
AMANPOUR: Now, music is quite popular in Afghanistan. I understand it's popular with you, too. Not many people know that your mother knew Leonard
Cohen, that your sister danced on stage with Bruce Springsteen at a concert and that your own daughter is in a band. Not many people know that culture
and that music is so much part of your life. What does that mean to you as prime minister, as head of NATO, just in your life?
STOLTENBERG: So, first of all, all those three women means a lot to me, my mother, my sister and my daughter. Second, they all have, as you say,
strong feelings for music, for culture. My sister passed away. My mother has passed away.
But my daughter is very much alive. And, of course, as a father, I'm very proud of her, playing in a band called Smerz. And it is a kind of modern
music which is different from the music I listened to in the 1970s and it's very different from Leonard Cohen. But still, of course, it is great to be
a father of a musician.
AMANPOUR: Well, it's nice to talk to you and end on that note. Jens Stoltenberg, thank you so much indeed. Thank you for your support. And I've
told my story because I want women to pay attention and maybe just, you know, get a little bit of advice and direction if they need to. Thank you
so much, Jens Stoltenberg, for joining us on this, you know, changing chapter in U.S./NATO relations.
So, turning to real musical legend or another musical legend. At 88, our next guest is neither letting his age nor the pandemic slow him down.
Country singer and songwriter, Willie Nelson, has made two new albums in the last year, and he's taken part in many concerts, benefits and PSAs, but
all virtually, of course. Also, a bestselling author, his new book, "Letters to America," offers a dose of advice and hope. And here's Walter
Isaacson speaking to him about his activism and why he just can't wait to get on the road again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thanks, Christiane. And, Willie Nelson, what an honor, welcome to the show.
WILLIE NELSON, AUTHOR, "WILLIE NELSON'S LETTERS TO AMERICA," MUSICIAN: Thank you. Glad to be here.
ISAACSON: Man, you've had an incredibly productive pandemic year. You got two new albums out. One of them a pay on to Frank Sinatra. You've written
your 10th book. You've done concerts. What was it like? What drove you to be so busy during the year when every one of us were locked down?
NELSON: Well, of course, I -- wasn't much else to do except write. And I could -- fortunately, I could still do that. But it has been a trying
experience for everybody,
ISAACSON: Well, like everybody in America, I love the song "On the Road Again."
ISAACSON: In fact, all of us have been singing it to ourselves all day today, knowing we're going to talking to you. What's it feels like to you,
the prospect of getting on the road again?
NELSON: Well, it's been over a year, and the last show we played was down at the Houston Fat Stock Show in March, a long time ago, a year or so ago.
We had a great crowd, like 80,000 people. And then nothing, from then until now. You know, it has been hard. But on the other hand, I know that
millions of other people out there are having it a lot rougher than I was.
ISAACSON: You recorded a version of "I'll be Seeing You" as a public service announcement, trying to convince people to get the COVID vaccine.
ISAACSON: What do you say to all of your friends and fans who are skeptical about that vaccine or hesitant?
NELSON: Well, I'm sorry they feel that way. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and beliefs. I have mine and I don't mind telling them that,
you know, I'm double vaccinated. I'd feel better if you were, you know.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you all very much. And welcome to Farm Aid, the concert for America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ISAACSON: Back in 1985, you started Farm Aid with Neil Young and John Mellencamp. You did a virtual Farm Aid concert this past year. Tell me how
has the pandemic effected farmers?
NELSON: Well, it's affected them in a horrible way. First, their crops are rotten in the fields. They're having a hard time. The big corporate farmers
are doing a little better because they got big money behind them and they can afford to miss a year. But I know farmers out there who miss one year
and they go bankrupt and are out of business.
ISAACSON: In your new book, "Letters to America." It's a whole bunch of letters, to America, to yourself, what is your message there? What are you
feeling about America now? What are you trying to say?
NELSON: Well, I just I think I am trying to let people know that there is hope, there is -- you know, we're still here. We woke up again. We've got
responsibility to move on and do what we can to make this a better day. If everyone feels that way, we'll get through this.
ISAACSON: But it has been a really dark period. And your book, in a way, tries to give us a bit of optimism, but also give us some lessons. Tell me
about the lessons.
NELSON: Well, it will be hard for me to give advice to people because I made every mistake you can make. So, Ray Price used to tell me, just to
follow me around. And whatever I do, do the opposite. So -- and that's kind of the way I feel. You watch me, and if I do it, it might not be right.
I wrote a song called "Energy Follows Thought." It starts out, imagine what you want and then get out of the way, because energy follows thought. So,
be careful what you say, I think that's not a very bad advice.
ISAACSON: Your book weaves together not only your words but it goes back and looks at all your songs. It weaves together the music. Has this year of
the pandemic effected the way you look back at some of your music? Has it changed your perspective on it?
NELSON: No, I don't think so at all. I think people still need it. They still need to hear a song that somebody will sing to them and they can
travel in some way, pay some money and hear somebody else sing to them because they need that right now. They need that music. They need that
energy exchange that happens between an audience and an entertainer. And they have been denied that over a year. So, it's time they got back to
that. I think everybody is ready.
ISAACSON: Tell me what it was like growing up in the tiny town of Abbott, Texas.
NELSON: Well, it was great. One good thing about it, if you came out for a sport, you would make the team because they wouldn't have many people
competing, you know. You know, I've played football, baseball, basketball, ran track, (INAUDIBLE). I did all those things. And I was a little short
guy, tried to make it. But to an Abbott, you can do that.
ISAACSON: Tell me about the influence that your grandmother had on your life, a deeply religious person.
NELSON: One of the things my grandmother said that I've always remembered about music is music is anything that's pleasing to the ear. I believe that
100 percent. She also taught me about -- she played piano pretty good. And she taught Little Sister Bobby how to play some piano. And I learned a lot
by sitting on the piano stool next to her. Listening to what she was singing and playing.
ISAACSON: And she and your grandfather raised you. Tell me about what you learned from your grandfather.
NELSON: My grandfather was a great guy. He was a blacksmith. And he had a blacksmith shop there in Abbott. Every day, I would go over there and I'd
help him shoe horses. And he got kicked in the stomach one time by a horse and he had to wear a belt, you know, for the rest of his life, really. And
-- but I enjoyed being there, helping him shoe the horses, it was a lot of fun. Yes, I learned a lot, you know, just by being around him.
He was a great musician and singer. He taught singing voice. We had singing conventions there in Hillsboro every Thursday night or whatever, and all
the great gospel singers from around would come in and they would sing for a couple hours. And it was really great music. He gave me an old guitar, at
one time, a Sears and Roebuck guitar. (INAUDIBLE). And that was my first guitar.
ISAACSON: And tell me what you did when your grandfather gave you that first guitar?
NELSON: You know, I was thrilled to death. And he showed me a couple of chords on there. And never forget it.
ISAACSON: And you wrote your first song when you were seven. What drew you to music?
NELSON: Well, I wrote my first poem. I was at the Brooking National Homecoming in Brookings, Texas. And my grandma, who raised me, had put on a
little white sailor suit with short pants and red trimming around the collar.
And I got nervous before I got out on the stage and I started picking my nose. And my nose started bleeding all over my sailor suit. But it kind of
went together with what my poem, it was, what are you looking at me for? I ain't got nothing to say. If you don't like the looks of me, then look some
other way. And that's sort of been my theme in life.
ISAACSON: But then at age 10, you were playing in a band, right?
NELSON: My sister and I played music together, started a little band early in life. And yes, we're still playing together, you know. And then she's
still the best musician on the stage. And she's been over on the right side of the bandstand over there for many years, keeping the band together and
making me sound a lot better.
You know, and through the years, we picked up a bass player, a drummer, a flute player. Next thing you know, we got a big band. But I played in a
band called John Raycheck's polka Band (ph). It was a first time I made any money playing music. And I've been working at cotton fields for, you know,
$2 a day, and all of a sudden, here I am playing in a band with John Raycheck's polka band, and I made $8. So, I said, wait a minute, I hit the
ISAACSON: You eventually go to Nashville, but what caused you to react against that Nashville slick sound and want to create outlaw country music?
NELSON: I wasn't trying to create anything different from anybody. I was trying to do what I felt was right. And I had the fortune. Fortunately, I
had -- I worked with a lot of great producers up there, Chet Atkins, who produced a lot of my first records, was a great producer.
And he would sometimes use strings or horns or whatever that wouldn't necessarily be the Old Nashville sound of people thought should come from
Nashville. But I thought it was great. And there was a lot of good musicians there to helped him do it, Boots Randolph and Grady Martin and
all of those great musicians in the studio at one time, they could play anything. Doc Stardust or Mountain Dew, it didn't matter.
ISAACSON: Who were the best influences on your music early on?
NELSON: Bob Boyles (ph) was great in influence on my music. I used to listen to all his songs and got to know him. Floyd Tillman, Ted Daffan,
Leon (INAUDIBLE). Paul Buskirk was music teacher, taught me a lot about guitar and recording. He was from down in Houston. So, I had a lot of
friends. A lot of help along the way.
ISAACSON: Your latest album is a tribute to Frank Sinatra. And you've said he's your favorite singer, why?
NELSON: Why not? You know, I love his singing, I love his phrasing. I also like George Jones and Ray Price. It's a different genre of music. But my
overall favorite singer of all time is Frank Sinatra, period. I got to sing "My Way" with him years ago, foggy day in London town. Hung out together.
Did a couple of shows. And I've told a lot of people, one of my greatest regrets is, we did a show -- I think it was in Palm Springs together and he
invited me by his home to hang out. And for some reason, I had to get on a bus and go somewhere. So, I've always regretted that I didn't stay there
and hang out with Frank.
ISAACSON: Your new album, and that's a tribute to him, is called "That's Life." And you cover that song, of course. But you do it in your own style.
Had you ever heard Sinatra play "That's Life" and have you ever sung it with him?
NELSON: I Never sung it with him, but heard him do it several times, you know. And I love the way he did it. But one thing Frank always did, which
he never did the same song twice the same way, and I don't either. So, I don't have to remember what I did last time.
ISAACSON: You've become a real advocate and entrepreneur in the world of legal marijuana. Let's go back to your childhood in Texas. What did you
used to smoke back then?
NELSON: Everything. Anything that would burn, from cedar bark, grapevine, boulder (ph), you name it. And it was, you know, almost -- well, I did --
later in life had a lung collapse because of it. And I'd smoke anything I could get and I went from all those things into tobacco, which was a big
ISAACSON: And you felt that alcohol was a big mistake, right, it led you back to marijuana?
NELSON: Well, you know, alcohol will make you go back to anything, you know. You get a little drunk, you'd go anywhere and do anything. I am not a
big drinker. Fortunately, my friend, Paul English, used to help me get out of trouble when I would get too much to drink. He would -- most of the
time, he would roll me a big fat joint and take a couple of hits of that and pass out. So, I wouldn't be any more trouble to him. But alcohol is not
good for me.
ISAACSON: You're 88. You've had a top 10 album, country album, in each of seven decades. What's the secret of your longevity?
NELSON: Oh, you know, I think thinking positive, being glad you're here, being glad you woke up again and try to make the day worthwhile. I believe
in doing something every day to pay for the day, whether it's physical, mental or whatever.
ISAACSON: Willie Nelson, thank you so much for joining us.
NELSON: Thank you. You have a good day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And what an enduring legend is Willie Nelson.
And finally, tonight, if every dog has its day, then today belongs to Wasabi, the Pekingese. This little guy stole everyone's heart at the
historic Westminster Dog Show in New York taking home the coveted title of best in show. Here he is strutting his stuff as he become the fifth of his
breed to win in 145 years. His owner says, Wasabi will get a proper dog's dinner to celebrate.
And that is it for us for now. Thank you for watching and good-bye from London.