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Interview with German Green Party Leader Annalena Baerbock; Interview with Michelle Singletary. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired August 31, 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.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): The Taliban rise again. What will they impose this time? I ask expert Ashley Jackson and former top CIA officer Robert
ABDUL RASHID SHIRZAD, FORMER INTERPRETER FOR U.S. FORCES: We are heading to the airport. Hope to make it and survive.
AMANPOUR: One of the last escapes. We follow a format interpreter's dangerous and emotional journey from Afghanistan to America.
Plus: The curtain is coming down on German Chancellor Angela Merkel's long rule. I talked to a potential successor, Green Party leader Annalena
MICHELLE SINGLETARY, PERSONAL FINANCE GURU: Eventually, people are going to go, I am not going to pay this extra money because you made the choice
not to get vaccinated.
AMANPOUR: The dollars and cents of getting vaccinated. Personal finance guru Michelle Singletary talks to Michel Martin about the financial cost of
skipping the COVID shot.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
The last American flight out of Kabul marks the second time in just over three decades that Afghan insurgents have defeated a superpower, first the
Soviet Union, and now the United States of America. So what is next for a nation that has drawn so much of America's blood and treasure, its
strategic and its security concerns?
Is the war there actually over? Will the real progress that America and her allies brought last? Will the victorious Taliban impose a radical Islamic
caliphate, despite their promises?
Well, this is their message now:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZABIHULLAH MUJAHID, TALIBAN SPOKESMAN (through translator): We have a message for any possible invader, that anyone who walks to Afghanistan with
bad intention, they will face what the United States has faced today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And they wasted no time taking over the airport, scene of the world's biggest ever airlift, fighters entering the hangar wearing Western-
looking fatigues and inspecting U.S.-looking equipment.
Here to discuss Ashley Jackson. She is a co-director at the Centre for the Study of Armed Groups. And Robert Grenier, he served as CIA station chief
for Pakistan and Afghanistan from 1999 to 2002, during the rise of the Taliban and al Qaeda.
So, Robert Grenier, let me start with you, because you were there on the ground when 9/11 happened. What is top of mind for you as you witness what
we have just said, two superpowers defeated by an insurgency in about 32 years, and the Americans' place in that?
ROBERT GRENIER, FORMER CIA OFFICIAL: Well, what I think of is the eight hours of discussion that I had over two days with Mullah Osmani, who was
the number two figure in the Taliban at that time, where I explained to him that, unless he handed over bin Laden and dismantled al Qaeda, that the
Americans were going to come and that he was going to pay a very serious price.
He predicted at the time that if we did that we would meet the same fate as the Soviets. And I think, overall, he was maybe closer to being right
certainly than I was.
AMANPOUR: It really is extraordinary, actually, to put it in that frame, because I guess I want to ask you, having spent so much time there, having
seen so much of the military components spend so much time there, the NGOs, what has been achieved, would you say, Robert?
GRENIER: Well, I think that the greatest achievements have been social and economic, I mean, that the Afghanistan of today bears, fortunately,
relatively little resemblance to the Afghanistan of 2001, in terms of economic development, in terms of social development, in terms of liberties
for women, education overall, and particularly for women, infant mortality.
You could go down the list, and there has been tremendous progress both because and, in some cases, perhaps in spite of, the U.S. and the
international involvement there.
AMANPOUR: So, Ashley, you know that firsthand because you spent many years actually conversing, interviewing, talking with the Taliban in the parts
that they held even throughout the last 20 years.
Do you believe what they're saying that they will be somehow somewhat different? Or all these things that Robert has said, all the things that we
have reported, are they at risk right now, particularly with the women, with the freedoms that have been gained over the last two decades?
ASHLEY JACKSON, CO-DIRECTOR, CENTRE FOR THE STUDY OF ARMED GROUPS: Well, there's no up-and-down answer to that.
I think we have heard the Taliban leadership make overtures, saying that girls will be allowed to go to school. There have also been contradictory
statements about the restrictions that will be placed on women.
The movement itself, I think, is savvier than it was in the 1990s. They know how to better communicate, how to deal with the international
community. But they also are walking into an Afghanistan, as Robert said, that has schools and clinics and a level of development and industry and
economy that simply wasn't there in the 1990s.
And the Taliban doesn't want to lose that. They want international legitimacy. They basically want to take over and benefit from the gains of
the international intervention, but impose their own kind of state. And that's going to be tough to do, because the Afghan national budget is 80
percent dependent on international aid.
If they want that aid, they will have to make some sorts of concessions.
AMANPOUR: Robert, from what you know -- and, obviously, there's a lot of internal wrangling between the various generations and iterations of
Taliban right now.
Do you think they are the type to recognize this fact that Ashley has just said that if they want to actually run a country, whatever it looks like,
they have to make concessions that are now being demanded by the United States, by Europe and the others?
GRENIER: Well, I suspect and I hope that they will be willing to make certain concessions, but I see no reason to believe that they are going to
compromise their core beliefs.
And so, with regard to the role of women in society, the role of Sharia, Islamic law, I don't think they're going to be very flexible. And I think
that we need to prepare ourselves for that. We need to be knowing that, to some degree, they're going to disappoint us, so to speak. I think we need
to be very, very clear about sort of, what are the red lines? What are the bottom lines for us, number one?
And then, number two, I would very much agree with Ashley that we must, to the maximum extent possible, not allow our political aims and desires in
Afghanistan be placed on the backs of the mass of the Afghan people, that, one way or another, we need to find some way to provide at least some level
of humanitarian assistance to them.
AMANPOUR: Well, Ashley, what does that look like then? Who does that? Is it the U.N.? Is it the NGOs? Is it America, USAID?
Who actually takes care of the terrible and still grinding poverty and lack among so many? I think it's, as you said, 39.5 million people there.
JACKSON: Yes, I mean, that's a good question.
It's a mixture of all of the above. The fact is the Taliban are now, or will be when they announce the government, they will be the government.
They will be the ones responsible for the welfare of Afghans.
But since 2001, the international community has helped establish and sustain a state that is heavily dependent on international aid. Everything
from teacher salaries to the medicine and health clinics is paid for by the U.S. and other governments. And to simply cut that off, I think, would be a
cruelty and to aid and abet a humanitarian catastrophe.
So, what the international community has to do now is really think through, OK, what systems are there that we can use to channel the money to people
who need it to keep the Ministry of Health going, to draw lines and ring- fence that funding and those activities, which -- the clinics are part of the government, and so are the schools, but you can't shut them down.
If you paid for girls' education for 20 years, cutting that funding and halting that funding, as the World Bank has already done, basically shuts
girl schools before the Taliban has a chance to.
So the international community has to work out the modalities by which it will continue to sustain some of the very, very, very basic services. And
also I think, frankly, the Taliban will want to show that it can be somehow sufficient, that it can raise revenue, that it doesn't need the
So we have to see how all of this plays out. But it really is on the international community to make sure that, as Robert said, Afghans don't
suffer on the back of this.
AMANPOUR: So, Robert, what does actually matter then for the United States? Is it the situation of the Afghan people, or is it for the United
States and I guess Europe and others in the region to make sure that they have a secure Afghanistan, one that does not serve as a launching pad to
terrorist attacks, one that will not be a safe haven for radical Islamic terrorists?
Which do you think the U.S. is most -- wants to wants to be able to achieve the most?
GRENIER: Well, I think that the bottom line for the U.S. is terrorism.
And just as we said to the Taliban back in 2001, there must be a government, there must be a political dispensation in Afghanistan which is
willing to deny the territory that they control to international terrorists. And if it is you, the Taliban, who are willing to do that,
we're quite willing to live with you as a government. Otherwise, we're going to do our best to try to replace you.
Well, we spent 20 years trying to replace them. That hasn't gone very well. And we could get into a long discussion as to whether the recent decisions
by the Biden administration were correct or not. On balance, I think that they were not.
But in any case, that's precisely the question that we are posing to the Taliban now. And, as then, again, I think we need to give them every
opportunity to disappoint us. But if I had to guess right now, I do not think that they have within themselves to actually control international
And, of course, there are many more of them on their territory now than there were in 2001. Essentially, it was one in 2001. There are many now.
And this is a concern, not just for the United States, not just for NATO, but really for the entire region and, in many respects, especially
Pakistan, because the Pakistani Taliban has safe haven right now in Afghanistan as we speak.
AMANPOUR: And we have already seen that, actually, Afghanistan has been able to have a terrorist attack in the midst of this entire retreat around
So we have ISIS-K, which seem to be thrilled to bits that they are now the new Taliban, and are showing Islamists around the world that they will take
the place of the Taliban in terms of Sharia, the ISIS kind of caliphate logic that they had. And it appears that the United States is going to just
farm all this out to over-the-horizon counterterrorism.
So how realistic is over the horizon? And how dangerous is this, not new, but now showing itself ISIS-K group?
GRENIER: Well, I think it depends very much on the extent to which terrorist groups other than ISIS-K -- let's leave that aside for just a
moment -- terrorist groups, particularly al Qaeda, Pakistani Taliban, ETIM, which is focused on China, and others, are able to constitute themselves in
a way which permits them to launch operations in the region and further afield.
As we see that problem increase, as we may well, I think that we will find that over the horizon, as it's practiced right now, will not be adequate.
And I think that we will be scrambling to find bases there in the region. It's another question altogether.
With regard to ISIS-K, yes, as we all know, they are sworn enemies of the Taliban. They don't have anywhere near the strength that the Taliban had or
has right now. Nonetheless, they could create some serious problems for the Taliban, particularly in the areas where they are strongest.
AMANPOUR: Ashley, I want to get back to the people, because one of the tropes -- and I have certainly covered this, and I believe it's not correct
-- one of the tropes about the Afghan people has been that, oh, they weren't ready for whatever it might be, freedom, democracy, progress,
I saw so much to contradict that during many years of reporting. Can you tell people who might be watching just how much investment the Afghan
people did put in their liberation from the Taliban some 21 years ago, 20 years ago?
JACKSON: So, I think it's difficult to make generalizations about a country and a people as diverse as Afghanistan.
At one end of the spectrum, you had Ashraf Ghani and a more liberal technocratic elite that ruled the country until very recently, and at the
other end of the spectrum, you had the Taliban, so -- and everything in between.
But I think there are a number of common values and even talking to people in more conservative areas of the country living under a Taliban control,
people have a desire for education, they have a desire for progress, everyone on all sides of the conflict.
And I done hundreds of interviews over the years with Taliban fighters, with midwives, with every segment of the population practically. They want
peace. They're exhausted. And I think that's what we have seen with the Taliban's sweep through the country with a lot of the attitudes now, with
the panic about fleeing.
No one wants another civil war. No one wants this conflict to continue. And I think this was for a lot of my friends and colleagues on the ground the
hardest thing about the attack on the airport, was, beyond the just absolute cruelty of it, people felt, even if they violently opposed the
Taliban in their hearts, OK, the war is over now. The Taliban have taken Kabul, and there will be no more violence, there won't be any more suicide
And then, immediately, that was proved wrong. But I think, if we can talk more broadly about the Afghan population, no one wants to lose the kinds of
progress, the kind of integration into the rest of the world, the economic, social, political kind of gains that we have seen.
There are a variety of opinions about what the future of Afghanistan should look like. Indeed, that's what this war has been about. But, certainly,
people want education, people want health care, and they want peace above all else.
AMANPOUR: Robert, how realistic is that? We hear from the president saying the war is over. We know the Afghans want peace. They have wanted it for 40
Is the war over? How do you see the next, I don't know, year, two years, even six months unfolding?
GRENIER: Well, I think that Ashley is essentially right. I think the vast majority of Afghans want to see peace.
And that extends to former political leaders and people as diverse as Hamid Karzai, Abdullah Abdullah, even Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, God forbid.
So, I think, all things equal, they would like to make their peace with the Taliban. They would like to help the Taliban create a broad-based political
dispensation that can appeal to the vast majority of Afghans. I'm not sure if they're going to succeed in that.
But I think that the sentiment of most of the country, whether, in their heart of hearts, they liked the Taliban or not, are going to want to try to
give this a chance and to try to make the best of it. It's -- I don't think that we can make judgments about five years from now based on the
sentiments that we see right now.
And the Taliban still has many enemies in the country, as we know. And I would not be at all surprised, five years from now, eight years from now,
to see significant pockets of resistance to the Taliban creeping up elsewhere in the country, if they don't do what they need to do to bring
the Afghan people along with them.
AMANPOUR: Thank you both so much, indeed, for your perspectives.
Robert Grenier and Ashley, thank you so much indeed.
Now, the Biden administration says efforts are still under way to extract around 100 Americans who were left behind in Afghanistan. Since the fall of
Kabul, the U.S. and its allies have evacuated more than 123,000 people from the country.
Abdul Rashid Shirzad is one of them. He's a former Afghan interpreter who spent five years working for U.S. Special Forces.
Correspondent Anna Coren follows his family's desperate journey.
ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): His family piled into a taxi with just a bag of belongings.
Abdul Rashid Shirzad hoped this was farewell to Kabul's dust-covered streets.
SHIRZAD: Yes, heading to the airport, hope to make it and survive.
COREN: The 34-year-old former Afghan interpreter knew their chance for escape was slim.
SHIRZAD: That's a Taliban vehicle right there with the white flag.
COREN: But, as the father of three young boys, the alternative was not an option.
SHIRZAD: That's Ali Akbar. That's my wife right there. This is me. This is Ali Abbas. And that's Ali Omid right there.
COREN: Once at the airport, Rashid realized he'd made a mistake, his eldest child nearly trampled in a chaotic sea of humanity also desperate
for a way out.
SHIRZAD: That's the Marine gate right there. There is nowhere to get inside.
COREN: This was the family's second attempt at the airport within days, and as darkness fell, reality set in.
SHIRZAD: With this crowd, it's impossible.
COREN: We made Rashid last month in Kabul while doing a story on Afghan interpreters who'd worked with the U.S. military, only to be left behind.
A number of them had recently been executed by the Taliban, and Rashid, among others, feared they would also be killed. Rashid had spent five years
working for the U.S. Special Forces, SEAL commanders describing him as a valuable and necessary asset who braved enemy fire and undoubtedly saved
the lives of Americans and Afghans alike.
(on camera): These guys were your American brothers.
SHIRZAD: American brothers, yes.
COREN (voice-over): But, at the end of 2013, his contract was terminated after he failed a polygraph test. So, when he later applied for an SIV to
the United States, his application was automatically denied.
Rashid and I kept in touch after I left Afghanistan. And in a matter of weeks, the country had collapsed and was now under Taliban rule.
SHIRZAD: I don't want to be killed by the Taliban. They're going to cut our heads off if they find my location. Please help.
COREN: CNN evacuated stuff from Kabul with the help of a security team on the ground working with British paratroopers inside the airport. The
channel established was now an opportunity for Rashid.
Before dawn on Sunday, 22nd of August, Rashid, his family and another nine people were picked up at a location near the airport. They were driven
close to a Taliban checkpoint near the Baron Hotel back gate manned by the British.
SHIRZAD: We at the back date of camp Baron. We are so close to the gate. If they just come to the gate, they can see us. They can see us from the
COREN: In less than an hour, British paratroopers let them in.
SHIRZAD: Hey, Anna, we're good. We are inside now. Thank you so much.
COREN: But celebrations were short-lived. U.S. Marines would not allow Rashid and his family past the checkpoint because they did not have a visa.
SHIRZAD: The Americans asked just for U.S. visa and U.S. passport. That is it.
COREN: A frantic seven hours ensued, as messages and phone calls between London, Hong Kong, Atlanta, Virginia, and Kabul were made coordinating with
security on the ground.
Once his identity was confirmed, they were through.
SHIRZAD: We are at the airport terminal. We made it. We are really excited.
COREN: For almost two days, they waited patiently at the airport, as thousands of fellow Afghans were airlifted to a new life.
SHIRZAD: Another aircraft about to take off. Lots of Marines there.
COREN: Then it was their turn, exhausted, but happy, aboard a C-130 to the U.S. base in Bahrain.
SHIRZAD: We are in Bahrain, Bahrain.
COREN: Less than 24 hours later, they were on the move again.
SHIRZAD: Somebody knocked on our door and they said, pack your stuff up. You have got a flight now. We are so excited. We still don't know where we
are heading to. So, hopefully, it's the U.S.
COREN: And sure enough, their wish had come true.
SHIRZAD: Our aircraft is landing in D.C. That's Washington. We are this close. Everybody is excited.
COREN: In the space of four days, they were on U.S. soil.
(on camera): How does it feel to be in America?
SHIRZAD: We are so lucky that we are saved. It is beautiful to be here. We were the luckiest people.
COREN (voice-over): Housed at Fort Lee military base, Virginia, while his SIV is processed, Rashid was reunited with a SEAL team member who he hadn't
seen for nine years, a second chance at life for an eternally grateful family whose hearts may remain in Afghanistan, but whose future now lies a
AMANPOUR: Anna Coren reporting there.
And a couple of defense officials say that Taliban members escorted Americans to the gates of Kabul Airport in a secret arrangement with the
U.S. during the airlift.
But the evacuation effort wasn't all America's heavy lifting. Europe invested heavily in Afghanistan under the NATO umbrella after September 11,
when the bloc invoked its Article V defense of all for the very first time.
The German foreign minister is in Islamabad, Pakistan, today, meeting with his counterpart about next steps. Angela Merkel is one of Germany's longest
serving chancellors. For nearly 16 years, she's represented democracy, humane migration, a strong Europe, but her extraordinary leadership ends in
late September and whoever her successor will have to fill some very large shoes.
One hopeful is my next guest, the Green Party leader, Annalena Baerbock. And she's joining me now live from Potsdam, Germany.
Ms. Baerbock, welcome to the program.
I did say that you would have to fill some very large shoes if you wanted to step into Angela Merkel's role. Is that fair? Does that -- is that a
burden on you? How do you feel taking this on?
ANNALENA BAERBOCK, LEADER, GERMAN GREEN PARTY: Hello, and good afternoon over the Atlantic. It's really a big pleasure for me to be on your show.
Thanks a lot for the invitation.
Yes, these are a very important three weeks up to come in Germany, because of after decades of -- after Angela Merkel, with big shoes, we choose a new
chancellor. And it's really a historical decision in Germany, because the question if we really renew our country with a Green chancellor, or if we
keep on going like in the last years.
So, it's really an important time for Germany.
AMANPOUR: So I'm going to get to Green in a moment, because it is extraordinary. You have got 11 of your 16 areas that are in coalition with
Greens. It's the first time a Green candidate is running for this position.
But I first want to go back to Afghanistan, because your foreign minister is in the region. You yourself said during the evacuation and the fall of
Kabul that the German government had missed signals from your own diplomats in the country in Afghanistan and contributed to this failure over the last
Can you explain what you think should have gone better, how it should have been done?
BAERBOCK: First of all, I would like to express my deepest condolences to the fallen U.S. service members after this horrible attack on the ground of
These are really emotional times for everybody, also for us in Germany, because many people, like you already had, in your little report, stayed in
Afghanistan. Many people who have the German citizenship, many people who worked for the German armies couldn't be saved over the last few weeks.
And one of the big failures from the German government was that, after the U.S. administration declared in April that they would withdraw end of
August, the preparation didn't work as they should in Germany to bring back German citizens, but especially people who worked with the German army, who
worked with German NGOs to get the visas ready for those people to go in -- to leave the country towards Germany.
And because those preparations weren't done, many, many people couldn't be saved over the last weeks.
AMANPOUR: So, Ms. Baerbock, you recall when your Chancellor Angela Merkel did allow so many refugees in back in 2015, and she was roundly criticized.
It led to a wave of nationalism and populism and upside-down politics.
Now she's saying that 10,000 to 40,000 local Afghans who worked, as you say, for Germany and for the mission have the right to resettle in Germany,
if they want to. Will Germany allow that? Would your party back that?
BAERBOCK: Well, first of all, it was very important in 2015 that the chancellor said at the moment when people were moving around Europe, were
standing in front of the German border, which has been an open border for many, many years, because we are in a united Europe, that people could come
It was very important, and many people came. And over the last years, even though there was a rise of a populist party within Germany, the big
majority of Germans supported the integration of refugees within Germany.
In my downtown here in Potsdam, there were so many people engaging in bringing kids to school, getting jobs for refugees who settled in our
And now the big question, if we help those people who supported NATO troops in Afghanistan, to save their lives. And towards what's your question, yes,
I think it's very important that those people -- and it goes up to 50,000 people in Afghanistan who supported NATO troops, who supported German
troops, but also worked as a journalists, worked as NGOs, worked as cooks, translators for civil rights organizations, for women's organization, that
we get out those people out of Afghanistan.
But the big difficulty is now, after the troops have left, as you know as well, that it's really hard to get those people out. And my point of view
is that we need, really importantly, an Afghanistan summit of all NATO troops, together with China and together with Russia and the neighboring
states to save those people who are still stuck in Afghanistan and who are faced with this.
AMANPOUR: You know, I was speaking to my previous guests, who said we had to engage now with the Taliban, because you couldn't blame the Taliban for
the poverty and the hardship that might come down to the general population.
So how do you, if you were chancellor, envision a relationship with a group such as the Taliban?
ANNALENA BAERBOCK, LEADER, GERMAN GREEN PARTY: Well, it's a terrorist. So, we cannot recognize the Taliban -- as Jihadist terrorist group as a normal
government. So, it cannot be recognized as a government but we have to keep up those fundings. I totally agree with what has been said before, fundings
for school, especially for children, for girls.
We have to talk also about the United Nation's mission, which is still in Afghanistan to ensure that the basic civil rights are ensured in the
country and to guarantee that the whole question of health care is not totally destroyed. But, however, I find most importantly at the moment not
every NATO government is doing their own thing because we went together into this mission 20 years ago and now, we have together -- it's the
responsibility of NATO and this meet -- the summit between the NATO states to ensure that basic civil rights and living conditions are still
guaranteed in Afghanistan.
AMANPOUR: So, one of your opponents or challengers for the chancellors' position has said that this defeat, this debacle, as he's called it, is the
biggest, you know, problem that NATO has encountered since its founding. I guess my question to you is this. NATO, as you mentioned, invoked Article 5
for the United States after 9/11. Now, it's perceived that the United States did not correctly engage with German or British or other European
partners as it came out.
There's been a lot said about, you know, President Biden and America's back. And now, many Europeans are asking, well, what exactly does that
mean? What exactly does that mean to you? Are you satisfied with one of the first examples of America being back, you know, unfolding in Afghanistan
BAERBOCK: We have to evaluate the whole mission, the whole 20 years because it was very important that 20 years ago there was not only a
solidarity with the U.S. from Europe, from western partners, from NATO partners to invoke Article 5 but it was also a question of humanitarian
intervention because we cannot shutdown our eyes if, worst case, human rights atrocities are happening around us in our neighborhood.
But over the 20 years, there have been many mistakes which have to be evaluated. Within NATO, we are, anyhow, at the moment at a strategic debate
within NATO. And this mission, one of biggest missions of NATO, has to be totally discussed within NATO, what went wrong and what went right because
there was big support in the beginning with regard of civil society, with basic human rights. But over the years, when the mission turned towards the
war on terror, we had many, many people also out of the army which were saying, we cannot fight only terror, we have to do also working together
with the government, working with infrastructure, looking at the problems which happened already in the last years that people who have been trained
from NATO troops went over to the Taliban because they weren't paid the same as what the Taliban paid them. So, there's a big evaluation needed.
And also, the question that the former U.S. administration under Trump had the in the midst of the NATO mandate discussions and talks with the Taliban
ignoring the Afghan government. This was one of the major, not only problems, but disasters for the situation we are standing now -- in right
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you, obviously, about climate? You're the first green candidate for chancellor. We've seen, you know, Hurricane Ida in the United
States. You had terrible floods with terrible deaths in Germany. We've seen them in India, in China over the summer. Europeans are very inclined to
vote for -- you know, for mitigating the climate change, but some of them are concerned about the costs it'll take. What do you plan to do to make it
really meaningfully front and center of an administration that you might lead?
BAERBOCK: Fighting the climate crisis has to be topic for every government for the upcoming years because climate neutrality is not only the most
important thing to save all of our lives. You mentioned already the horrible disasters in the U.S. We had it in Europe with burnings of
thousands of Europe. Many, many people lost their life over the last years because of the climate crisis.
So, it's the question for human mankind in the 21st century. And on the other part, it's also the question for modern society, for modern industry.
So, my proposal is that we go together to the next climate conference in Glasgow as a Transatlantic Union between the E.U. and the United States and
top formulize a Transatlantic climate neutral agenda, investing billions into a climate neutral technology and showing also that western democracies
can face together one of our biggest challenges of the world.
AMANPOUR: And finally, I was really interested you brought up Russia and China, and we see many world leaders talk about how they need China to be
onboard particularly because of climate, no matter how they have differences with China on (INAUDIBLE). But you interestingly say, you will
not go easy on China just because you need cooperation on climate. What does that mean? Why are you making that statement?
BAERBOCK: We have to work together on climate because we have only one world and the climate doesn't know any borders. But we are also in a
competition with China, western democracy towards autocratic systems and autocratic states. And we have seen over the last years that the gap which
have been left by the West but also by the European Union with regard of working together was filled by China.
Giving one example of maybe you -- over the Atlantic who didn't follow that so closely, when we had the Euro crisis in the European Union, when Greece
was facing really big, big challenges for their country of infrastructure, China invested heavily in Greece and also in other European countries, in
train networks, in digitalization, but not only because of good will but for strategic reasons, to have dependency with the European states because
we're in heavy competition with China with regard of future market but also with regard of values and human rights.
And that's why, for me, it's so important to stay in contact with China on climate issues, to stay in contact on global problems like the pandemic but
have a strong voice with regard of protecting our European values, protecting our European interests and also, protecting our common European
market maybe, for example, with human rights violations which are facing Chinese people in China.
AMANPOUR: Well, it's really interesting to get your perspective particularly as you are fighting for this chancellorship. Annalena
Baerbock, thank you very much for joining us.
Now, COVID is still surging in Germany and it's weaving its deadly trail around the world. In the United States, there's been a recent uptick in
vaccinations, but 26 percent of adults are still unprotected. And there may be a hidden economic impact.
Michelle Singletary is a finance columnist for "The Washington Post." And her new op-ed "Fired, Sick or Both" digs into the cost of refusing an
inoculation. Here she is speaking to our Michelle Martin. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Christiane. Michelle Singletary, thank you so much for joining us.
MICHELLE SINGLETARY, PERSONAL FINANCE COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST": Oh, it's my pleasure to be here.
MARTIN: So, many people will know you as a person who's been writing about personal finance for quite some time. Now, you've been writing about the
impact of being unvaccinated may have on people's personal financial situations. Now, as we are speaking, those numbers are creeping up, but
there's still a significant number of eligible Americans who are not yet vaccinated. And you're saying that companies are starting to pressure
people. What are some of the ways they're starting to do that?
SINGLETARY: Well, for example, Delta announced that it's going to do a surcharge for those unvaccinated employees who choose not to get
vaccinated. And many companies, especially now that the Pfizer drug has full FDA approval are saying, get vaccinated or you could lose your job.
And companies have fired people for not getting vaccinated.
And I wanted to write a column to take it away from the politics and all the yelling and screaming and, you know, accusing people of being anti-
vaxxer in a very negative way because you can't persuade people that way. They just dig in. And so, I wanted to write a column to say, hey, OK, you
have a right to not get this vaccination, but it's going to cost you and the cost could be astronomical to you and to your family.
MARTIN: Delta Airlines, they're going to start imposing a surcharge in place and insurance who are choosing not to be vaccinated, who are eligible
to be vaccinated. And what's the logic of that?
SINGLETARY: That's right. So, it's a $200 surcharge and they're finding that when employees are hospitalized, it cost up to $50,000. Now, on
average Kaiser Family Foundation found that it was about $20,000, but that's the average. So, more or less, right?
And so, it's going to get to the point where employers and hospitals and insurers are saying, if you choose not to get vaccinated, you might have to
cover that full cost. Right now, there's a lot of grace to people because this is -- you know, we're just still in the middle of it and people, you
know, may be unsure, but once Pfizer got full approval -- and mind you, let's just say, all the vaccines had approval, emergency approval. So, it's
not like some sort of wild, wild, wild west, they'd give you these shots, it went through rigorous studies and science for the vaccine. But if that
comes to the point where more and more employers and you're not getting vaccinated, they're going to say, you bought this bill because you decided
not to get vaccinated.
MARTIN: You know, CNN Houston Methodist -- the Houston Methodist Health System has fired employees for refusing to be vaccinated, particularly
relevant to their particular job function, like the fact that they had to interact with other employees or patients sort of closely. Is it pretty
well-established at this point that employers do have the right to compel their employees to get vaccinated? Has that been pretty well-established?
SINGLETARY: I wouldn't say pretty well, but it's going to go against you. So, in Houston, about 153 people either they got fired or they had to
resign. And some of those employees took their case to the court and the case was dismissed because the judge said, this is a health system and
these are health professionals trying to help people with COVID. And so, to get vaccinated, protect them and to protect the patients and the staff, and
so, it's good cause to have them require employees to be vaccinated. So, the judge tossed the suit out.
But the EEOC has been releasing updates and bulletins to employers. And as long as accommodations are made and provided and you still -- and if you
still refuse it, then they have a right. According to the EEOC, early guidance that they have a right to fire you or deny you employment if you
don't get vaccinated.
MARTIN: What are some of the other ways that being unvaccinated could cost you, and as you say, astronomically?
SINGLETARY: Well, one way is you lose your job. While you're looking for another job, you may not get unemployment insurance. Because if the
employers require it and it's something that's protecting their staff, and you say no, then you could be denied benefits. So, what are you going to do
to prepare for your family? And more and more employers are requiring it so that it's going to take you longer to find a job that you can replace that
And let's be real. Death itself, you die, who's going to pay your bills for your family? And we already know that many families don't have enough life
insurance, they don't have enough savings. And so, particularly, if you've got underage children, 18 and younger, who can't work, can't get a job,
what's going to happen to them?
And then look down the road, people aren't good about that, looking down the road, but we know the long haulers, those people who have symptoms from
COVID long after it's gone, we don't know how that's going to cost you medically in terms of neurological issues. And so, that could cost you down
the road in terms of long-term care. And many people don't realize that long-term care is not covered by your health insurance. It's not covered by
Medicare. And so, that could cost you down the road.
MARTIN: And what I think I hear you saying is even if -- you may not be covered even if you do have insurance for those -- through that long-term
rehabilitation process, even if you do have insurance.
SINGLETARY: Yes. That's true. I mean, we are in a gray area, right. And the EEOC and government agencies are giving guidance. They're not saying
it's an absolute, but they're saying, we know that the vaccine can keep you from dying or having severe effects. If you choose not to, that some of
that cost or all of that cost could be put on you somewhere down the road. Because if not, we all pay for someone's individual decision not to get
Because if the cost of health care goes up significantly, they're spread across all the base of people who are insured. And eventually, people are
going to go, I'm not going to pay this extra money because you made the chose not to get vaccinated.
MARTIN: Is there any precedent for this though? Because I thought that one of the principles of the Affordable Care Act was not to punish people for
pre-existing conditions. Now, I think you could argue about whether having COVID as a preexisting condition when it's something that was foreseeable.
I mean, this was a contagious respiratory virus that the entire world has been dealing with. So, it's not like it's something that was sort of
unknown to you.
But, I mean, how does that sit with you, charging people more for their insurance because of a decision they make? I mean, is there a precedent for
this? For example, could you charge people more for choosing to smoke? It's been known for quite some time that smoking has a deleterious effect on
health, right? So, could people charge smoker more? Is there some precedent for this that people are pointing to, that insurers can points, the
employers can point to?
SINGLETARY: Yes. I mean, well, they do charge smokers more. To your point about pre-existing condition, that is true. But you know how law works,
right? People challenge it, they go to court, it could take years. And during that time, you've got to flip that bill. And so -- and it is a
slippery slope, right?
So, if we're going to charge people who chose not to get the vaccine, what about people who had type 2 diabetes, for example, who -- maybe their
health -- lifestyle created this condition? And so, I think the courts might end up being clogged with a lot of cases people arguing against it,
and that's well and good. That's how our system works. But I want to talk to the individual who is deciding not to do this, and can you bear that
cost? Can you fight through a legal case while you don't have a job or you've got to pay these premiums until it gets worked out in the legal
You know, I've been looking at GoFundMe pages of people who have died from COVID and asking for money from their surviving children and spouse, which
tells me that there was no money put in place, not enough life insurance or savings, and I get that. It's hard to say for something like this, of
course, but it also shows that people need to think about who you're going to leave behind or who else in your family is going to be impacted by not
having that vaccine.
And we have heard countless stories of people on their deathbed from COVID saying, I regret this decision. I'm leaving my children and dying. And
who's going to take care of them? And that's what I want to say. I get it. I was scared when this first came out. And as an African-American, we don't
trust the health system because we know there were a lot of discrimination going on. You know, we always talk about the Tuskegee incident. And so, I
get it. I understand why you're afraid.
But when I looked at the research and looked at it outside the sort of political bubble that we are in, I chose to get vaccinated because I want
to be here for my kids. I want to be here for my husband. I don't want to endanger my coworkers and their children. Let's remember that there's --
children under 12 can't get the vaccine.
And although the deaths and illness from children statistically is less, do you want your kid to be that statistic? Because that's not what you're
going to say at their funeral, like, oh, most children don't get sick and die. You're not going to say that if that's your child.
MARTIN: A lot of people said that they were worried that if they got sick from the side effects, that they miss work.
SINGLETARY: So, if you get sick from the side effects, you're going to be home and possibly without pay. Get that, when I got the shot, I got a
little sick. And for a day, I, you know, took a sick day because it was just like a cold. But, again, think about long-term. You might not get paid
for two days, but if you don't take that shot and you die, you're not going to get paid for a lifetime and your children are going to be impacted. And
that's real, right?
So, a couple of days of no pay and being sick and a lifetime of your children struggling or your spouse struggling, and you've got to weigh
those two. And I'd say you need to opt for even if you have to take off a couple of days without pay to live.
MARTIN: Are there, though, any religious or health requirements or exemptions that you do find credible? Because it is a fact that people do
have diverse religious perspectives. Some people do have objections to what they believe to be the research -- the research models that led to these
vaccines. Although, I do want to point out again that, you know, Pope Francis has encouraged people to be vaccinated. So, the argument that, you
know, fetal tissue was involved and therefore, it's unethical, it would seem he would be the ultimate authority on that, and he has decided that
vaccines should be taken to save lives, especially to save vulnerable lives.
But are there any specific health or religious exemptions that you think are credible that should be respected?
SINGLETARY: No. There are certainly some people who, perhaps, have some respiratory issues, for example, they can't wear masks or there's, you
know, some research that shows that, you know, the potential for getting blood clots. And I actually suffer from blood clotting condition. I've
written about it. So, I'm happy to talk about it. I have a protein S deficiency, which makes me prone to blood clots.
And so, we have some studies that show that some people might be prone to blood clots. I did it anyway because I'm on medication and there's a way to
treat the blood clots more effectively than it is to treat COVID long-term. So, there are some exemptions and the law provides for that. You know, the
Americans Disability Act says, if someone has a disability or some religious objection and you have -- employers have to accommodate those.
So, there is -- even in the law, there is a carve out for people who have legitimate, legitimate, that's key, reasons for not getting the vaccine.
And if they take precautions on the job or they provide them, I should say, accommodations, then there is a carve out for those folks. However, if you
stock shelves and your employer says, you must get vaccinated that's not an accommodation they can make for you. You can't stock shelves from home. And
so, that's something you have to consider. And it maybe that you have to say, I can't keep this job or you will be fired. And I think in the age of
COVID, that is appropriate.
MARTIN: Michelle, are you at all concerned, though, that companies that are starting to impose these vaccine mandates will start imposing other
requirements and that might lead to a slippery slope?
SINGLETARY: There is a possibility, but I'm not concerned right now. COVID is so lethal and has so many long-term effects that I think right now we
have the ability to reduce the number of people who are getting COVID. And it's such a -- when you get diabetes, it effects maybe just your family,
but COVID has the potential to affect not just your family but your neighbors, your friends, your coworkers.
And I think that there can be a case made that if you choose, the science is there, the vaccine works, it will reduce your ability -- even if there's
some breakthrough cases, you're less likely to get very, very sick and be hospitalized and die. And I think that is the difference. And I'm not as
concerned about that.
MARTIN: A lot of places have offered incentives like, you know, metro cards or, you know, lotteries to get -- in some cases like some tuition
paid at community college. I mean, some of these incentives have been pretty lavish and some of them have been, you know, cute, you know, you get
a free beer, show your vax card and you get a free beer and you get ice cream, something of that sort.
What's your take on that? Do you think that's moved the needle at all?
SINGLETARY: I think it's moved a little. But -- and you know, in states and areas where they have a lottery, like here, they did here in Maryland,
vaccination rates did go up. Listen, Americans love getting stuff free, they love a discount, they love that two for one kind of deal. And if
that's going to -- well, if that's what it takes to get people on the fence -- and those, I think, people are like, I'm not so sure, then that moves
them over to the vaccination column, and I'm OK with that because that cost is going to be a lot less than the societal cost of people being sick or
dying or not even being able to work.
Listen, your employer may not require you to get vaccinated and may say, listen, come in. You don't even have to have any mask. However, if you get
sick and your coworker gets sick, that business could shut down, all of you lose your job. Your coworkers, people you care about could lose their job.
Your kids could get sick. And so, that's also an effective appeal, I hope.
There are some people we're just never going to persuade, and that's very unfortunate. And while some people gleefully tweet about those folks who
have died from COVID who were anti-vaxers, I don't think we should be gleeful because the cost to all of us is too high. And we have to continue
to do whatever we can do to persuade those people who are on the fence and maybe don't really have the knowledge, the right knowledge.
MARTIN: Michelle Singletary, thank you so much for talking with us.
SINGLETARY: Thank you for having me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Really important information there. And so, finally back to Afghanistan whereof all things that could be lost in translation,
information and journalism could be among them. They could go back into that deep, black hole under the Taliban that was before. So, we thought
we'd raise another tribute to the legendary American actor, Ed Asner, who died on Sunday morning at 91.
The seven-time Emmy winner rose to fame as the churlish yet lovable TV newsman, Lou Grant, on the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" because he stood for
real news and the ability of women to cover it. That was in the 1970s. He later captured hearts in the comedy (INAUDIBLE) of course, as the leading
voice in Pixar's 2009 animated movie, "Up." But despite all the accolades and the achievements, it will surely be as a local newsroom director on TV
that he will be most remembered for.
That is it for now. Thank you for watching us. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. See you again next time.