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Interview with Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Constanze Stelzenmueller; Interview with Moderna Co-Founder and Chairman Noubar Afeyan. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired December 09, 2021 - 13:00:00   ET




Here's what's coming up.


GEOFFREY NICE, UYGHUR TRIBUNAL CHAIR: Pregnant women in detention centers and outside were forced to have abortions even at the very last stages of


GOLODRYGA (voice-over): An independent tribunal says China is committing genocide against the Uyghurs. We break down the evidence with lead lawyer

Geoffrey Nice and dissident activist Wu'er Kaixi.

Then: China's view. We asked how Beijing defends what's happening in Xinjiang.

And, goodbye, Angela Merkel. Hello, Olaf Scholz. I talk to foreign policy expert Constanze Stelzenmuller about the life and vision of Germany's new



NOUBAR AFEYAN, CO-FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN, MODERNA: Our position is, let's get the data and then act swiftly to protect as much as we can everybody.

GOLODRYGA: The man behind Moderna. Chairman Noubar Afeyan talks to Walter Isaacson about Omicron and where the COVID-19 vaccines may take us in 2022.


GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour, who will be back next week.

China is committing genocide -- that's the finding of a London-based non governmental tribunal today.

Here's chairman and top human rights lawyer Geoffrey Nice announcing the ruling.


NICE: On the basis of evidence heard in public, the tribunal is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the PRC, by the imposition of measures to

prevent births intended to destroy a significant part of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, as such, has committed genocide.


GOLODRYGA: The PRC is, of course, the People's Republic of China.

The panel of lawyers, academics and activists, which is in part funded by an advocacy group, the World Uyghur Congress, laid out extraordinary detail

and chilling evidence to support its claims that Beijing is deliberately attempting to reduce the Uyghur population through forced sterilizations

and abortions.

Beijing denies any abuse is taking place. We have asked the Chinese government to appear on the program to respond, but, so far, they have

chosen not to come on.

Pressure does appear to be ramping on China for what's happening to the Uyghurs. On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Uyghur

Forced Labor Prevention Act, this just days after the Biden administration announced a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

Here now to discuss are the tribunals lead lawyer, renowned human rights attorney Geoffrey Nice, and, from Washington, Wu'er Kaixi, a Chinese

dissident of Uyghur origin whose parents and brother are still in China. He has not been able to see them in 32 years.

Welcome, both of you, to the program.

Geoffrey, let's begin with you, because you, along with the panel, have been conducting this investigation, combing through evidence for the past

year now.

Let's just get through some of your conclusions, because, aside from genocide, one of your summaries is: "Torture of Uyghurs attributable to the

PRC is established beyond reasonable doubt and crimes against humanity attributable to the PRC is established beyond reasonable doubt."

Talk about the evidence that you were able to gather and how you came ultimately to this conclusion.

NICE: The evidence comes in various bits.

There's the witnesses we heard in person. And so just dealing with your first point, many of them spoke of being tortured when in detention. And if

there was any reason for torturing anyone on -- and there probably isn't -- none was given. They were just tortured, and tortured in, frankly, medieval

ways, fingernails being pulled out being one example, but other horrifying ways of being tortured.

So far as the other crime is concerned with crimes against humanity and the evidence for that, a lot of the evidence for that came from witnesses. Of

the 11 categories of acts that can constitute crimes against humanity, several were found proved.

But they're only of significance if it's also proved that there was an attack on the civilian population that was both widespread and systematic,

can be widespread or systematic. And that was also approved. We considered, well, is what's happening to the Uyghurs just happening to everyone, so

it's not specific to them? And the answer was no.


If you look at the pattern of evidence, not just from ordinary -- not ordinary witnesses -- from fact witnesses, but from experts and all sorts

of other bits of evidence, this was a treatment of the Uyghurs specified for them, specifically for them, because not only were the things done to

the Uyghurs individuals, but their religion was destroyed, mosques pulled down, graveyards bulldozed over.

They were subject to the most extreme forms of surveillance, focused, again, on the Uyghurs, and many other bits of evidence like that. So you

have an attack. It's widespread. It's systematic. It's on the Uyghurs. And you have these other many acts that can be acts of crimes against humanity,

and they were also proved. So that's how you get there.

GOLODRYGA: And I want to turn now to what is arguably your most controversial finding, and that is of genocide.

You write: "All elements are of an intended genocide to be accomplished by a convention-listed act imposing measures to prevent births within the

group are established."

So can you explain to our viewers how you came to the conclusion and judgment that population control by way that also included forced

sterilization, in the panel's view, was a form of genocide?

NICE: Well, first, of the five acts that can constitute acts for genocide, controlling birth is one of them. Restricting measures -- restricting birth

is one of them.

So there was a great deal of evidence, both of policy, as well as of events actually happening, policy to control births, to reduce the births of

Uyghurs from what they would otherwise naturally have been, and it was actually possible to prove or to establish within reasonable range that we

accepted as a reasonable range the likely loss of Uyghurs who would have been born, but for the various provisions that were imposed to restrict


So that potential act of genocide was proved. You then have to have the intent to destroy the Uyghur community by the act of controlling births, as

I have just referred to. That's always the much more difficult element in genocide cases wherever they're dealt with, whether at the International

Court of Justice or in one of the criminal courts.

And so far as the tribunal members were concerned, we were not troubled, but we were aware that there have been very, very few cases dealing with

this type of these types of genocide, where no one's necessarily killed as part of the genocide. Most genocides involve mass killing.

And it was very important to look to see whether the intention of the PRC, the People's Republic of China, matched the act that could be proved,

controlling the births. And we were satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that what was happening in the abortions, in the forced insertions of

irremovable intrauterine devices, IUDs, and the sterilizations, we were quite satisfied that that could be tracked right back to the leadership.

Thus, the intent was reflected in the act, and subject to one or two other technical details, very important, but, nevertheless, for genocide to be

proved, genocide was proved.


Wu'er, you and I have spoken on this subject matter before, this year. And you have been an activist on this front for many years. As noted, you have

not seen your family in over three decades. Just curious your response and your take of this finding from the tribunal, and do you think that this

will actually be a turning point in the plight of the Uyghurs internationally?

WU'ER KAIXI, CHINESE DISSIDENT OF UYGHUR ORIGIN: I really hope that is the turning point.

And, first, I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to Sir Nice, and then the tribunal for finding this verdict.

And this verdict, when from -- when 2017 -- when, in the year 2017, Chinese government start to conduct this concentration camp policy, at that time,

we were already extremely worried, because when Chinese -- we know Chinese government very well.

When they gather people into concentration camp, they don't release them. So, what -- at the end, result will be genocide. That's what we were

extremely scared of at the very beginning.


We -- and it has been for years now. We know very few cases of escape or release from the concentration camp. Although Chinese regime have announced

that the ending of concentration camps, still millions of Uyghurs are still in there.

And then the Chinese government is extremely worried about releasing them back to the society, become very disgruntled, or to say the least, group of

population over millions. That's -- in Chinese regime's mind, that's the factor of instability.

That is something they will not do. So what comes naturally, we were extremely worried, is mass killing in the camp or just let them die off.

And then the evidence that the Uyghur Tribunal have found that the forced sterilization and everything have also indicated the clear -- again,

thanks, to Sir Nice that has just mentioned, the clear intention of the People's Republic of China to Uyghur people.

That part, I wish this finding, this verdict can let the world step into a new stage to realize we are dealing with a criminal -- crime act --

criminal regime, that they are conducting active criminals -- crimes today against other people.

So that should have -- result in changing the international world's China policy. And then I have been also in this program with you and then also

with Christiane I have mentioned the word appeasement the world has been conducting to the Chinese world has enabled China to what it is today, a

criminal group.


GOLODRYGA: Well, we have seen a sea change, if at least just by the actions of the past week from the United States, not only in rhetoric, but

in saying that there will be a diplomatic boycott, right, of the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.

That was followed by the United Kingdom, Australia as well. Obviously, I mentioned the House passing last night the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention



GOLODRYGA: As I mentioned at the top of the show, we did reach out to the Chinese government for an official to come on for a response to this as

well. They have declined.

But we should note, Geoffrey, that the tribunal has received funding from the World Uyghur Congress, about $115,000 to $250,000 that has been raised.

And some of that money has come from the United States as well.

And on that note, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said this today in response to your publication: "The anti-China separatist organization

World Uyghur Congress manipulated and sponsored by anti-China forces in the U.S. and the West has rallied a handful of anti-China elements to set up

the so-called Uyghur Tribunal. They hired liars to make false statements and falsify evidence in an attempt to craft a political tool to disrupt

Xinjiang and smear China. This so-called tribunal is completely void of any legal basis and has no credibility at all."

Geoffrey, if they are right about one thing is that the tribunal does not have any legal basis of enforcement. Everything else is subject to their

interpretation. You have laid out the facts and all of your findings beyond a reasonable doubt after months of investigation.

I'm just curious, though, to get your response to this harsh statement from the Chinese government. We heard Wu'er say that he hopes that this will

develop into some sort of change in policy, at least internationally. We are seeing that. We're not seeing much of a change from China, though.

NICE: It's unfortunate that they should say things like that, not least because I had eight colleagues who, like me, have no particular interest in


This may sound harsh. I didn't mean to sound harsh -- had no particular interest in the Uyghurs, beyond the interest we would have in any other

group of people, saying they have been oppressed. Our sole concern was asking and answering a question -- or answering a question that needed

answering and was not being answered by the official bodies that might have done so, the United Nations.

Major governments at the time we started hadn't even thought of answering that question. No court was going to be able to answer that question. So,

that was our only interest in doing this. We have no particular interest in being hostile to the PRC.

And, indeed, the judgment says a great deal about how China's an extraordinarily long civilization, from which we would also much prefer to

be able to live learn, rather than to hear these unfortunate and rather empty attacks.


There is one other thing to be said about funding. Everybody on the tribunal at the senior level worked absolutely for nothing. People more

junior were -- we were able to fund to a limited extent. And, of course, nobody puts any money into the tribunal either. We have to be completely


We have no interest in the outcome of the tribunal, apart from answering the question. As to the funding that starts from the World Uyghur Congress,

we needed some funding for flying witnesses around and for hiring a place to hold hearings and that sort of thing, as well as for paying for the

junior researchers, and similar.

Where else is the initial seed funding going to come from, but from an interested group? And I often say to people who raise this issue, who do

you think normally started and probably paid for the investigations after World War II of the Nazis, if it wasn't the Jews? It was very often and

usually the Jews. Of course it is.

Having got the initial funding from the World Uyghur Congress, the rest was crowdfunded in one way or another by people who have no particular interest

in the Uyghurs as a cause.

So, those are the answers I'd give. But I would say that the end of the judgment specifically invites China to think of the greater influence it

could have in world affairs if, instead of behaving in the way it does, it said, well, we are frankly so big, so powerful now and to come, we don't

actually need to behave like this to get what we want. We should be out there demonstrating by submitting ourselves to internationals oversight of

this complaint by going willingly to court to have matters tested, by opening the country to independent inspection.

My goodness, they would do a great deal more for themselves than they do by saying the sort of things that they have said.

GOLODRYGA: Well, Geoffrey Nice, we thank you for your time and for your investment in spending so much of your time on this important subject with

your colleagues.

Wu'er, I hate to always bring this up every time you're on, just noting the fact that you have not seen your family in so long, and I can imagine what

a toll that has taken on you. But we appreciate your time, coming on and speaking out on this as well. Thank you. Thank you both.

KAIXI: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: And, as we said, China denies any abuse is happening against the Uyghurs. And, so far, no Chinese officials have agreed to come on to

this program.

But Victor Gao is a former official in the Chinese Foreign Ministry. He does not speak for the government now, but might be able to provide some

insight into Beijing's view on the issue.

Victor, welcome to the program.

My first question is just a response to what you have just heard.

VICTOR GAO, DIRECTOR, CHINA NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Thank you very much for having me. It's 2:00 early in the morning, so I'm

very happy to be on your program.

Now, first of all, allow me to talk about this Uyghur Tribunal. It's not a court. It's not legitimately incorporated. And if you want to put a label

onto it, it is a kangaroo court. It does not have legitimacy. It does not have decency. It does not have legality to do whatever it is doing.

And based on the fact that it is a kangaroo court, anyone to draw any reference from whatever finding they come up with will really be flawed by



GOLODRYGA: But how do you call it a kangaroo court?

GAO: It's a kangaroo court. It's a kangaroo court.

GOLODRYGA: But we made the point that it has no legal -- we made the point that it has no legal standing, but it is comprised of very respected,

world-renowned officials that have spent months poring over evidence.

How do you call that a kangaroo court?

GAO: It is a kangaroo court, in the fact that there is no legality and legitimacy for incorporation. And it is not recognized anywhere in the

world. And it does not have legal standing, in the sense.

And it now holds itself as if it is a court or a legally incorporated tribunal, part of the international community, for example. In fact, it is

a kangaroo court. Just look into the definition of kangaroo court in the Webster dictionary of English and then you will come to know the true

nature of this tribunal.

Secondly, allow me to mention that the Uyghurs are very proud members of the Chinese nationality. They are our brothers and sisters. And they will

remain our brothers and sisters for millennia to come.

The other point I want to emphasize is that Xinjiang is part of China, and Xinjiang will remain part of China for millennia to come. These are the

very important things.


Now, the other thing I want to emphasize...

GOLODRYGA: So, why...

GAO: Yes?

GOLODRYGA: Let me just quickly jump in, because I know you have a list of items you want to get through. And I'd like to get through them as well.

But let me just address them one by one, if we can, because we have gone through the kangaroo court as your response to the findings from this

tribunal. But let's get to the Uyghurs themselves. You call them brothers and sisters. If that's the case, why put them specifically -- and we're

talking about over a million -- in these forms of concentration camps, reeducation camps, whatever you want to call them?

In a civilized country, whether it be democratic or communist or what have you, what rationale is there for so many people being put in this type of


GAO: First of all, who counted the number, one million? Who counted? Where is the truth and validity in the numbers you are quoting?

Secondly, the Uyghur -- among the Uyghur people, there are indeed extremists and terrorists and those who want to split Xinjiang away from

China. Many of them actually fought in Afghanistan, against whom? Against U.S. soldiers and NATO soldiers.

GOLODRYGA: This is an isolated...

GAO: Many of them have blood of the American soldiers on their hands. Some of them were incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay, not by the Chinese authority,

but by the American authority.

All these are the facts. What they bring back to Xinjiang is a very extreme version of radicalization and extremism and terrorism.

GOLODRYGA: But you and I both know...

GAO: And they want to radicalize the local population.

And this is a fact.


GOLODRYGA: If you want to talk about numbers, are you suggesting that millions of Uyghurs are radical?

GAO: No, you're wrong. I think you quoted one million people being incarcerated.

I say, who used the one million number? You trace it to its origin, and you will know it is a fabricated number.

GOLODRYGA: Well, that number would come from the U.S...

GAO: How can you put one million people into incarceration?

GOLODRYGA: That number would come from the U.S. State Department.

But let's move on to other findings here and specifically that....

GAO: U.S. State Department has many, many false information over the ages.

And you need to be very objective, if you look at the number.


GOLODRYGA: Is the only accurate global information out of the -- Beijing and the government? Is that the only accurate information that you would


GAO: So, you need to be realistic on the ground. You need to come to China and really do a very real, objective investigation.

I think China will be opening its door, if you have the objectivity that's needed in doing such very important investigation, rather than listening to

a kangaroo court like this tribunal.

GOLODRYGA: Objectivity and availability and access are some things that I think many journalists feel that they are not getting from the Chinese

government and those that are trying to get onto the ground.

But let's talk about this issue of genocide and population control, and including through the use of sterilization.

I want to play for you sound that our Ivan Watson heard from a woman that he interviewed in Xinjiang who said that she had been forced to go through

a procedure to sterilize her for life. Let's listen.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Zumrat Dawut is a Chinese Uyghur who says she was forcibly sterilized by the government.

In October 2018, she says she was summoned to a government office and fined 18, 401 yuan, the equivalent of around $2, 600, for having one child too.

ZUMRAT DAWUT, UYGHUR CAMP SURVIVOR (through translator): They said there is an order from above that says, you must have a birth control procedure

done. We went to the surgery. They put me in bed and hooked me to an I.V. bag, and then I passed out.

WATSON: A doctor later told Zumrat the sterilization was permanent.


GOLODRYGA: We should note that Zumrat is no longer in Xinjiang.

But I do want to delve deeper into the subject and the statistics that we're seeing, if we can put up this chart from the Jamestown Foundation

that shows figures of sterilization up in Xinjiang specifically. You're seeing it decline through China, but, in Xinjiang, up dramatically.

And I'm curious to get your response for why that is, at a time when China itself is now allowing for a three-child policy to combat some of the

population decline that is a huge problem for the country.

GAO: Thank you for raising this very important question.

Now, ever since 1949, the Uyghur population has been on the increase. It has been on the increase, as I mentioned, since 1949, since 1978, and since

2000. And the population growth by -- for the Uyghur room population is larger by percentage points than the national average for the whole Chinese

population, and, in particular, compared with the Han population, which is the majority population in China.


And the population of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang has more than doubled for the last several decades. This is a fact. This is the very important fact.

Anyone who is using terms like genocide are completely disregarding this real, hard fact on the ground.

GOLODRYGA: But it's also a fact...


GAO: That is, the Uyghur population is not reducing, is not shrinking. It is not being reduced. It is thriving and flourishing. It is increasing by

big margins, larger than the national average of the population growth in China.

GOLODRYGA: Well, that is not what...

GAO: This is the real fact.

GOLODRYGA: Well, that is not what Zumrat and many others, and many other Uyghur women would say is their version of a fact.

And I think you are aware of that as well, given the charts that we have just seen.

But I just want to end on one quick question for you, because regardless of what your stance is on this, and whatever labels you want to put on this,

this does not shine a good light on China right now, or President Xi, who is about to enter most likely what will be his third five-year term as


In your view, for the benefit of his tenure going forward and the country's reputation internationally that has taken a big hit because of human rights

abuses, would it not benefit him and China to stop this and to turn things around, and to make clear that these detention camps are not acceptable at

all, whether you want to call them reeducation or not?

GAO: First of all, I disagree with the premise of your question.

Secondly, we need to be realistic on the ground in Xinjiang as far as the challenges we're faced with. Xinjiang borders with Afghanistan. And now the

Taliban is back in control Afghanistan, and there may be resurgence of terrorism and radicalization coming out of Afghanistan into Xinjiang.

This is the mega-trend. This is the very, very dangerous thing. People in the West should disregard -- should not disregard the fact that lots of the

evils are coming from Afghanistan over the past 10 years, over the past 20 years. After all, the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan lasted a total of 20

years, spilling out all kinds of radicalization.

And Xinjiang and people in Xinjiang are victims of such radicalization and terrorism out of Afghanistan. Let's be realistic on the challenges in



GOLODRYGA: Well, Victor Gao, we will have to leave it there for time, unfortunately.

GAO: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: We do appreciate you joining us. Thank you.

GAO: Thank you for having me.

GOLODRYGA: Well, relations with China are a top priority for the new German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, who takes over for Angela Merkel after her

16 years on the world stage.

Scholz is an experienced politician who served as Merkel's foreign minister and vice chancellor. And though he comes from a rival party, he thanked her

for helping to smooth his transition.


OLAF SCHOLZ, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): It is a big challenge. And I'm very thankful that the citizens of this country and the

German Bundestag gave me this task.

The fact that we were able to gain so much experience together for so long will help me.


GOLODRYGA: Big challenge is, if anything, an understatement, with China flexing its muscles, Russia massing troops on Ukraine's border, and COVID

and climate demanding his full attention.

Well, joining me now for more from Washington is Constanze Stelzenmuller, an expert on German foreign policy at Brookings.

Constanze, great to have you back on the program.

We were all chuckling from your tweet yesterday where you wrote: "Amazingly, men can become chancellor in Germany now." Some 16 years later,

there's almost another generation that would be shocked to see a man in power again.

But tell us a bit more about who he is. He's not a political novice. He served in the Cabinet, as we mentioned, and he was a mayor as well, but

what should the world know about him?

CONSTANZE STELZENMULLER, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: OK. Well, first off, hi, Bianna. Thank you for having me back on. And I'm very touched that you read

my tweets.

Olaf Scholz, as you say, is, I think, at this point, a seasoned professional politician, someone who was not just any mayor, but the mayor

of a city port state, Hamburg, which has trade relations with the entire world, and was finance minister under Angela Merkel in her last term for

the past four years, at a time when the European economy was in crisis because of the pandemic.

And he and his colleagues at the Finance Ministry were instrumental in devising and pushing through politically the European Recovery Program, a

massive, debt-funded budget program to salvage Europe's ailing economies in the pandemic.


So, I think, you know, he campaigned to say that he was a male version of Angela Merkel. That's probably not quite true. He is, after all, a Social

Democrats but he is, I think, a safe pair of hands.

GOLODRYGA: And he comes into office with engines running smoothly, one would assume. And you have summarized as well after the 16 years of Angela

Merkel and her role there. But talk about what challenges lie ahead, because there are a lot, whether it is Russia and Ukraine, whether it's

climate. And, obviously, other economic issues that we're still having to deal with in the aftermath of COVID.

STELZENMUELLER: Absolutely. All of those things. I do want to emphasize, though, just because I've just come back from a two-week trip to Germany

and saw some of the actors involved on panels. And I was really struck by the extraordinary civility of this democratic handover.

You'll recall that Angela Merkel took Olaf Schultz to -- around to introduce him to her peers at the last G20 meeting summit saying, this is

my successor, please welcome him. And in general, the handovers at the ministries in the past two days have been extremely civil. I have to say

that I'm really quite relieved by that and proud of it.

But as you say the strategic landscape of Europe and around Germany has darkened significantly within really the last months. And, one, because

Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops at the border of Ukraine and is making political demands of the West, of Europeans and Americans, that

cross our red lines, because China is, I think, increasingly hostile and threatening in its diplomacy. And yes, we are by no means out of the


Germany is currently suffering under the Omicron variant. We have a vaccination rate that is about as high or more precisely as low as the

American one. And as in America, the pandemic in Germany is now a pandemic of the unvaccinated. And the areas where there are many unvaccinated

people, the intensive care units are really struggling. So, the government is, for the first time, seriously contemplating a vaccination obligation.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. And Angela Merkel had received rave reviews early on in the pandemic, given her handling of it and following the science, her

background in science as well, it was something that she discussed throughout those early months. But, obviously, like many other countries

that fared well early on, they are now facing another round of lockdowns and unrest by many who are vaccine hesitant in the country just like around

the world.

You wrote a piece, a lengthy piece, summarizing Merkel's legacy. And one of the weak spots, you note that many others note as well, was this

relationship with Vladimir Putin. Of course, they were nowhere near friends or allies, but knew each other and got along better than most world leaders

did with Vladimir Putin. And a lot of pressure was on this relationship, in particularly the economic aspects of it, in Nord Stream 2s. This is has

come up again now in light of Russia potentially invading Ukraine.

The U.S. had been pressuring Germany to do away with Nord Stream 2, that was to no avail. But there is renewed interest in whether Olaf Schultz, if

there is, in fact, an invasion will change course. Unlike Angela Merkel, he does not seem as committed to Nord Stream 2 as she was. What do you make of


STELZENMUELLER: So, it's complicated, as always. I think it's worth noting that the European and governments and the Biden administration have been

messaging in lock step for several weeks now. And two weeks ago, the Polish prime minister, Morawiecki, was in Berlin when I was there. And Merkel

stood in front of the cameras with him and said that there will be dire consequences for Russia if it invades Ukraine.

For her, that was unusually stark language. She was always known to be quite capable of doing that kind of thing in private, but very unusual for

her to do it in public. The new traffic light coalition that Olaf Schultz heads of Social Democrats, Liberals and Greens is one whether a mixed views

on the utility of Nord Stream 2 or of shutting it down or rather never allowing it to go into operation.


It's worth saying that the federal agency that is in charge of certification of major infrastructure, the Bundesnetzagentur, has just

declined to certify the operation of Nord Stream 2, thus buying potentially six to nine more months of time. But I think Schultz has hinted that he is

willing to not allow Nord Stream 2 to go online.

Keep in mind, the -- a very real issue here is whether the German government could be sued by the companies pursuing Nord Stream 2 for

declining to certify, if it does so on political grounds. So, I think that this is as last-ditch option if Russian military actions or other kinds of

hostilities give the German government a cause to say, this obviates our commercial relationship, and this gives us cause to not turn on the

pipeline without incurring damages.


STELZENMUELLER: That's also at stake here. It's a lot of money.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. Well, in addition to, perhaps, a different approach towards Russia, we may see a different approach towards China as well.

Germany slowly seems to be coming around to the U.S. not just viewing the China the way Germany has for many years now as a trading partner but much

more as sort of an aggressor in many areas, particularly human rights.

I just want to add as we end here quickly note what you highlighted earlier because you have a bird's-eye view, obviously, not only about German

politics but you've seen it from Washington, D.C. And you talked about this peaceful transfer of power that is still so delicately viewed in the eyes

of many, including Angela Merkel, in Germany following what you saw -- we all saw transpire here in the U.S. on January 6th. That was a meaningful

moment to see this week in light of the reason events in the United States.

STELZENMUELLER: Absolutely. And I think that that January 6th was very much on German's mind. That said, you mentioned earlier that we too have a

conspiracy theorist movement that has been using the pandemic as an excuse for violence on the streets, for intimidating, threatening public

demonstrations of anger, including marching with torches in front of a Saxon health minister's private house. And those things are of concern as


We are not without groups in German society who I think would, you know, love to emulate the Proud Boys or the Three Percenters.


STELZENMUELLER: The quantity is smaller. But I think the proneness to violence, the hostility to German democracy is there and it's something

that we ought to be very wary off.

GOLODRYGA: A darkness we are seeing throughout the western world, that is for sure. And for the first time in 16 years, this is not Angela Merkel's

problem to worry about in Germany.

Constanze, great to have you on as always. Thank you so much.

STELZENMUELLER: Well, thank you for having me. It's always a pleasure, Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Thank you.


GOLODRYGA: Well, now, as at least 57 countries confirm cases of the Omicron variant, questions surrounding the latest strain do remain

unanswered. Moderna chairman and co-founder, Noubar Afeyan, is at the forefront of research and scientific development in the fight against

COVID. He joins Walter Isaacson to discuss Omicron and the future of vaccines.


WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Bianna. And, Noubar Afeyan, welcome back to the show.


ISAACSON: We've seen with the new variant, the Omicron variant, that sometimes here in the United States 3/4s of the people who have been

infected have already been vaccinated. One-third of them have had booster shots. Should we worry about the effectiveness of the vaccines?

AFEYAN: Well, Walter, when news of this virus variant first appeared, the scientific concern had to do with just the sheer number of mutations. And

there has been a concern, pending data, that it may, in fact, evade some of the immune response we can generate. And so, we are waiting for the data to

confirm that. And data is just beginning to trickle it. And it seems to suggest that indeed there is some diminution in the degree of defense, if

you will, with the vaccines.

But with a booster, it seems that it could be sufficient. And we're waiting for a lot more data before we could say that definitively. And so, we're

really in this waiting period for a few more days before we've got data. The problem with such a new threat, as we saw two years ago with the actual

original strain, is that it's easier to make pronouncement either in the worrisome direction or in the overconfidence direction. And one thing we

know is that both tend to be wrong.


The data eventually clarifies things. And so, our position is, let's get the data and then act swiftly to protect as much as we can everybody.

ISAACSON: But now, that we're going into the holiday season, what do you say to people? Should they get a booster shot right now before traveling


AFEYAN: All the evidence, Walter, suggests that even against the Delta, before we get even to Omicron, a booster would be important for people who

are six months away from their second dose. And the -- and so, I really want people to understand that it's Omicron that should cause them to get a

booster. The Delta variant is a serious threat in itself for reinfection.

Lots of data has come out suggesting that in certain vaccines, particularly, the effectiveness goes down precipitously after a few months,

and that the booster is the way by which we can get it increased again. And it's all, Walter, about the measurement of antibodies that are increasingly

being done to show that if you don't have a sufficiently high level of antibodies, your first line of defense to protect against infection, not

the degree of seriousness but just the protect against the virus getting in, is now down.

And I think that is an important part of the story that's emerging, where I think we're having to do a lot more antibody-based testing to begin to see

who is more or less vulnerable and who we should think about boosting. But for now, everybody who is eligible for boosting, in my view, all the data

suggests should be boosted against Delta, and then that's the best defense we have against Omicron for the time being.

ISAACSON: So, let me get this straight. You're saying that maybe people like myself, if we can, should get an antibody test?

AFEYAN: I believe, in general -- I'm not setting policy, but I do believe that we have completely underutilized the amount of information that

antibody levels and measurements can give us. This is not an antibody against the virus. This is not antibody against the antigen. This is

antibody against the vaccine. In other words, a vaccine generated antibody.

And the level of that is what all the data that's coming out seems to be correlating with effectiveness of the vaccine. So, if you have, say, a

thousand units of antibody, you seem to be extremely well protected, then you watch as that comes down to 100 or 50 and you're vulnerable. So, we

already have some sense of that. Now, there isn't a clear diagnostic test that says above 100 you have this below -- but just because we don't, it

doesn't mean as a general population matter, we should not be looking, just like looking at viral sequences, we should be looking at antibody levels

because there is just too much variation going on.

The virus is changing. Our immune response is changing. It's also waning. And the complexity there can only be counteracted by information,

repeatable experiments and then, making judgments on facts.

ISAACSON: So, you think that the government should authorize and doctors should give you antibody tests to see how well the vaccine has kicked up

your immunity?

AFEYAN: I believe that that is a serious topic that the regulators should take up because of the fact that it is an important piece of information

that they are using to authorize boosters, to authorize vaccines. And yet, somehow citizens do not have access to this information. So, yes, I believe

so. I say that as an innovator, as a technologist and as somebody concerned about making science-based decisions.

But, look, Walter, the reality is if the audience is say, why isn't this being done, it sounds reasonable. The answer is because we are living at a

time which comes after a historic vaccine industry and in a public health segment that has done things a certain way. And measuring antibody levels

for vaccinated people has never been something that has been deemed necessary or even useful.

However, this pandemic afflicting hundreds of millions of people, 5 million plus dead, I think has to cause us to say, what do we do in 2021, 2022, now

what did we do 10, 20, 30 years ago based on the threat we felt there? So, yes. My clear answer to you is, I think that should be given strong

consideration. And, in fact, in the U.K., it is being done. The government is mandating certainly for a certain vulnerable population antibody-based

testing. I think we need to look at that here.

ISAACSON: You have probably seen, of course, your counterparts at Pfizer have said that their booster shot really does kick up the antibody levels.

Is there any reason that the Moderna shot would be less effective?

AFEYAN: I don't know of any reason for that. And in fact, there is no question that the boosters that we administer and that they administer kick

up antibody levels. Whether the antibody levels are sufficient to protect against Omicron, we have very preliminary data that I saw yesterday from

the Pfizer group. We need to wait for more data because that -- though some of those assays need to be done in a way that represents the real-world

effectiveness and antibody levels and connecting to that requires quite a bit of work.


And so, my sense is the beginning sense of data, which is optimistic, will continue and we will follow up with a much more set of robust findings.

But, yes, I expect our vaccine, because it's essentially the underlying mRNA technology of Moderna pioneered over the last 10 years is what's being

used. And so, I don't see any mechanistic difference between the two.

ISAACSON: The mRNA vaccines that Moderna pioneered make it so that you can just code to a molecule, how to do a spike protein facsimile, right, that

will protect against the virus. Are you working on a new variant of the vaccine that specifically targets the mutated versions like Omicron?

AFEYAN: Yes, we are. And in fact, we started right at Thanksgiving with that chase. Because as soon as we found out about the sequence of in new

variant, we could see on our computer screens instantly the 30, 35 changes that have happened in that spike protein and the 10 or 12 highly concerning

ones in the most important binding region of the spike protein. And it was fairly unprecedented, and I must say surprising.

I mean, scientists are professionally trained not to be surprised. But it nevertheless is surprising because of the extent of the variation. So, yes,

we instantly have started to apply our technology like we did back in January of 2020 to computationally design and begin to make these

constructs. And we've said that we think within a two to three-month period we will be way down the path to be able to supply, if that's absolutely


But I'll also say, Walter, that the -- in the meantime, we do not only have our original 1273, it's called spike vax now, vaccine. but we also made a

multiantigen vaccine that includes sequence against the Beta variant. So, we have data on that in human that shows strong effectiveness against the

Beta and the original. We have another double vaccine against the Delta variant that is being tested in humans as we speak. So, we're not going

from the original strain all the way to Omicron. We already have a Beta combination, a Delta combination.

And in our data, we are very eager to see if the Beta or the Delta already gets us more protection towards Omicron than the original strain. Some of

us suspected that might be the case. We'll wait to see the data. So, this is a -- you know, the beauty of a code-based approach as you and I talked

about in the past, is that you should be absolutely adapting as the virus is adapting so that you stay -- try to stay close or ahead of it. And

that's exactly what we've been doing.

ISAACSON: You said that you were surprised when you looked into computer screens and you saw all of the mutations, all of the variation. Tell me,

what does that show about this virus, this underlying coronavirus?

AFEYAN: Well, I mean, I think that we are in uncharted territory. You know, when we spoke a couple of -- a year ago, I had mentioned that this

unprecedented because of the degree of social interconnectedness that humans have, that this experiment of the pathogen that is preying on our

social nature is gaining such a foothold because we are so interconnected. That was unprecedented.

Now, that unprecedentedness is manifesting in the ability for the virus to adapt by getting into so many hosting that it infects. Plus, now, we are

learning a vast number of animals, deer, other types of animals, that also are carrying the virus, each of those might as well be a biotechnology lab

running an experiment of how to defeat their immune system.

So, you have millions of experiments running against the vaccine that is trying to escape the immune detection. And add to that the interesting

scientific complexity of an immunocompromised patient in which the vaccine can persist, unfortunately. But in so doing, can run the experiment for

months and months and months.

You take all that together and the nature of evolution as such that if there is a solution to be found, with enough parallelism, enough time, it

will find it. And that's what we're up against. The degree of change we have seen before ends up being limited by the expanse of the experiment

that's being done.

Now, that that seems to be quite a bit more expanded, we will not be as surprised to see these things. But it does concern us that if you have this

strain, the question is how many other strains and how many other experiments are there? And how do we continuously stay vigilant? And this

is the key thing, I think, Walter, that we are all exhausted, those of us working on vaccines, those of us providing health care but also, in general

society from this topic.

On the other hand, the virus really doesn't have exhaustion as one of its features. And so, we're going to have to stay super vigilant. And I can't,

as we sit here to tell you, this is a one-week battle, a one-month battle, a one-year battle or longer battle.


And I know people don't want to hear that. But at least the defense of our health requires us to assume it's a longer battle and hopefully be wrong.

ISAACSON: You talk about the challenge of unvaccinated people around the world. Do you think that Moderna and other drug companies should be doing

more in terms of sharing intellectual property or finding ways that this can be done cheaply enough and widely spread enough?

AFEYAN: Walter, everybody should be doing the most they can. And I think everybody is doing the most they can. The way of doing it, people can

disagree on. And it so happens that the people developing and making the vaccine have both the knowledge and the responsibility to judge what is the

most effective way to do that.

We have increased our supplies from being able to make dozens of doses a week before this to hundred million plus doses per month going up to 200

million doses a month next year or more. So, the volume has expanded drastically, in hour hands, through partnering of ours, as well as other


We have announced that we will set up a factory, for example, on the Continent of Africa, which will happen over the next two to three years.

And people say, oh, well, that's too late. Well, the reality is that's too late if you assume it's going away in a few months. But having vaccine

security by having a plant operating in a location I think is an important midterm response to this.

Importantly, last October, Moderna was the first and sadly the only company who came out and voluntary pledged not to enforce its intellectual property

during the pandemic for anybody using mRNA to make a vaccine against COVID- 19. That has already enabled people making mRNA vaccines based on the 10 years we've done in this field to be able to offer solutions.

People say to us, well, why don't you give away your recipe? Why don't you train people to make it? If we thought that that would cause more volume of

production than what we're already doing based on the network we have set up, we would consider it. But we said publicly, that's simply is not going

to be the case. There is nobody that will stand up manufacturing over an unprecedented molecule faster than we can, faster than we have and produce

it at a quality.

Keep in mind, Walter, they are going to be making a vaccine that we developed and we are responsible for the highest possible quality we can

deliver. So, for all those reasons, despite the well-intentioned suggestions and attacks, I just feel like we're doing what we can. We'll do

more as soon as it's possible. But for the time being, we think we're on the right course.

ISAACSON: Because of the Omicron threat, there's been a surge of people getting vaccinated. There are now 200 million people -- we just passed that

mark in the United States. But that's only 60 percent of the population. Is that a good number or are we really lagging behind?

AFEYAN: I think if you look backwards, it's a great number. But compared to where we need to be to really protect the population, we're lagging

behind. And I think -- I would invite people to think of it this way. It's not a choice between getting a vaccine and not getting a vaccine. It's a

choice between getting a vaccine and eventually getting infected.

And I think that people have to put on the balance the consequences of getting infected, which people might be underestimating by saying, well,

it's like a flu. I'll get well. I'm not in that age group, I'm not worried. But the reality is that we don't know much about in disease. And what we do

know about COVID-19 seems to be leaving long-term effects in a significant proportion, 10 percent, 15 percent of people that we're just beginning to

learn about.

So, I think given the choice between getting infected and getting the vaccine, the vaccine is definitely a much safer way to go. But

unfortunately, people seem to be thinking only vaccine or no vaccine as though they are somehow impervious. And as you get Omicron, as you get

other variants, it's just a matter of time.

The second thing I think it's important to understand is, do we want, by being unvaccinated, to give ourselves the right to infect other people,

especially loved ones? And there are many rights that we do not have in society, specifically as it relates to impacting other people's lives.

Whether it's smoke, whether it's the way we drive, whether it's whether we can harm people physically, there are certain things that prevent us from

doing things to other people.

Well, it is clearly the case that getting infected, however safe you might feel from that, is a threat to the people around you. And I think for all

those reasons, the responsible thing to do is to be vaccinated and the safety profile is such that the public authorities, the regulatory

authorities have said on balance this is a far more protective measure than a safety concern. The virus is not. The virus would never get regulatory

approval. It is far more toxic than it is helpful just because it helps our immune system wake up.

So, I think that's the balance that has to be struck.

ISAACSON: Dr. Noubar Afeyan, once again, thank you for joining us.

AFEYAN: Thank you for having me, Walter.


GOLODRYGA: An appeal there from the chairman of Moderna for everyone to get vaccinated.

And finally, finders really are keepers. Even if it's eight years late. Listen to this. These precious stones were discovered by a climber back in

2013. Now, he stumbled across them while mountain climbing on Montblanc. But he dutifully handed in the valuable emeralds, rubies and sapphires to

the authorities.

Well, now rewarded for his honesty the local counsel allowing him to keep half of the trove worth $168,000. The other half will be displayed in the

Chamonix Crystal Museum. It's thought that the jewels were on a plane that crashed on Montblanc in 1966. So, an early Christmas gift for that French

climber for his honesty. Honesty does seem to pay off. Great story there.

Well, that's it for now. Thank you so much for watching and goodbye from New York.