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Interview With Author Catherine Belton; Interview With Former Prime Minister of Finland Alexander Stubb; Ukraine Crisis. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired February 15, 2022 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
After weeks of saber-rattling, a moment of cautious optimism in the crisis over Ukraine. Russia says some military forces are returning to base after
completing drills. But a wary West and Ukraine say they will believe it when they see it.
A glimmer of hope on the diplomatic front as well. Today, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz became the latest Western leader to meet with President
Vladimir Putin, where he called for continued dialogue between Ukraine, Russia, in the designated format for the Minsk peace process.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLAF SCHOLZ, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): I believe that we're in the situation to use all possibilities to make a peaceful solution
possible. What is important for me is that the talks take place in this trilateral contact group, therefore, in Minsk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: For his part, President Putin once more asserted that NATO was a threat to Russia, but he said there was room for further discussion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The extension of NATO is perceived as a direct and real danger to our security. I would
repeat that the answers which we have received from the United States and other member states of NATO do not correspond to our expectations.
But in those answers, there are some considerations which could be discussed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Joining me now, Dmitri Trenin. He's the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center.
Welcome back to our program, Dmitri Trenin.
And I want to ask you, from the Moscow eye view there, what are you making of these latest moves and what President Putin has said, what Sergey Lavrov
said to him, what the Russian defense minister has said about the military and diplomatic moves right now?
DMITRI TRENIN, DIRECTOR, CARNEGIE MOSCOW CENTER: Well, I think that the crucial meeting took place yesterday between the president and his foreign
and defense ministers.
And, basically, Putin was satisfied with the two months of highly unorthodox diplomacy backed by a pretty impressive demonstration of force.
So, I think that Putin has given a go-ahead to Lavrov, the foreign minister, to pursue diplomatic negotiations.
And as to Defense Minister Shoygu, he is now inspecting Russian naval forces and other forces in Syria.
AMANPOUR: He's gone to Syria? That's interesting.
TRENIN: He is in Syria right now. He's met with President Assad and he is inspecting the Russian forces out there.
AMANPOUR: Well, then Dmitri, construct for us then where we are in this crisis, because the last time we spoke, you said that it would take many
twists and turns. And we spoke right after the U.S. assistant secretary of state and many leaders got together with Russian counterparts to discuss
That was in early January. Where are we on this timeline of this crisis right now, from your perspective?
TRENIN: Christiane, I think we're at the end of the beginning.
So, the first two months after Russia's proposal/demands on the United States and NATO, I think Mr. Putin has reviewed what has been achieved with
the backing of military force, and he has decided that the United States has produced something which is diplomatically and politically very
worthwhile, an agreement to begin talks on nondeployment of intermediate- range missiles in Europe, to talk about nondeployment of strike weapons in Ukraine and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, the key demands of the Russian
draft treaty with the United States.
Clear, the central demand the top demand of no NATO expansion, no NATO enlargement to the east, to include in particular Ukraine and Georgia, was
not met, and it could not have been met, certainly not in the form suggested by Russia.
On the other hand, the developments in Ukraine and, in particular, in the last week or so, have demonstrated that the United States was not willing,
will not be willing to defend Ukraine with American soldiers. That means that the United States will not admit Ukraine to NATO, as long as Russia is
seeing that as a casus belli.
So, basically, Russia has exercised its veto right, if you like, on any further expansion of NATO. The problem is that, although this is true in
fact, it's not true in form. There can be no document, no treaty, no agreement to the effect of non-enlargement of NATO.
But I think we also saw in the last few days some interesting developments of the Ukrainian side. There's a trial balloon launched by the Ukrainian
ambassador to the United Kingdom of Ukraine possibly opting for neutrality itself, so the West would not have to withdraw its invitation to Ukraine.
Ukraine would put it on hold or would reject it itself out of its concern for its own security.
AMANPOUR: That is a really interesting deep dive into the analysis of what we have just been seeing playing out on the global stage.
So, then, I guess what you're saying -- because let's face it. We talked about the defense minister. You say he's now in Syria. But he's talked
about telling the president that some of the military drills are finished, and troops will return to base.
But, at the same time, we're hearing from the U.S. and other independent agencies that satellite images show that some actually -- some force
positioning looks like it's in the attack position, in other words, moving into those positions.
So, there's somewhat mixed messages. And the West and NATO are saying and Ukraine is saying, we're not going to believe about these forces until we
What do you think is the advantage for Putin about the mixed messages?
TRENIN: Well, I think this is precisely what Russia wants.
Russia does not want to appear weak in front of U.S.-led Western pressure. If Russia were to dispatch all the forces from the Ukrainian border to
their bases, then the West -- the argument here says that the West would have believed that its pressure had worked and Russia blinked.
Now, pressure will be sustained. Some forces will leave. Others will stay. And this pressure, I think, will continue. The objective today, I think --
and there has been added pressure on the political front by the State Duma, the Lower House of the Russian Parliament, calling on President Putin today
to recognize the Donetsk and Luhansk republics as independent states.
TRENIN: That was immediately condemned by the West, by various Western governments and bodies.
But this is precisely the kind of pressure that Mr. Putin is applying on Ukraine and its Western backers, that they push Ukraine toward implementing
the Minsk agreements, that this is the next station of this marathon.
As I said, we're only at the end of the beginning.
AMANPOUR: Again, really interesting.
Some have posited -- and you have just hinted towards that idea -- that what Putin could actually do and what a lot of this buildup could actually
be is to essentially make permanent or semi-permanent Russian positions along all those border points. Do you think that is the case?
TRENIN: Well, I think some forces will stay along the Ukrainian border. Some forces will leave.
Those who are in Belarus, I think, will leave, having exercised a phenomenal power projection exercise all the way from, let's say,
Vladivostok to the Polish border. That is very impressive. But they don't need to stay there. But in case they're needed out there, they will return.
Similarly, for the naval exercise of Odesa in the Black Sea, this exercise will come to an end. But the forces that are close to Donbass, other forces
on the land border between Russia and Ukraine, I think, will stay.
The -- as I said, the matter for Mr. Putin, for Russia is not yet resolved. So pressure will be kept. I think we are leaving the area of hyper --
hypertension, if you like, but we are entering the plateau of tension, until there may be a new spike or there may be a relaxation to a certain
AMANPOUR: Dmitri Trenin, you alluded to the NATO piece of all of this.
And, today, Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, again said what he actually said in Ukraine yesterday standing beside the Ukrainian president. He
basically said, standing beside President Putin, everyone knows the eastern expansion of NATO is not on the agenda. So that's a pretty strong signal.
And it's not the first time it's been said during this crisis by the West.
And President Putin could take that and, as you say, take everything that's happening and declare victory and move on.
What do you think from a Russian perspective of the united front that NATO has shown, the very strong front that NATO has shown, and the aggressive
psychological warfare -- those are my words -- that the United States has demonstrated in telegraphing and making more than public so much
intelligence that it has?
What effect do you think this has had on Russia, on the inner thinking of President Putin and his top advisers and ministers?
TRENIN: Well, I don't think that Mr. Putin or any of his advisers have doubts about all Western countries following the U.S. lead.
It just cannot be otherwise. They're all following the lead. They're all saying the same thing. However, they have very different economic interests
and very different attitudes toward Russia. Germany is very different from Poland. France is very different from Great Britain.
So, basically, yes, there's political unity, on the other hand, that if you look into the, let's say, nuances of what various leaders say, including
such people as the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, who also visited Moscow in the last few days, you see the differences in the Western camp.
As to intelligence, I think a lot of Russians are making fun of so many predictions by U.S. intelligence of Russia attacking on this day, on that
day, the day after, et cetera, et cetera, and nothing happening. So, to a lot of people, it's look -- this looks like an embarrassment.
Let me finally ask you this, because I wonder if it makes any difference. If there was going to be a war, would Russia, through its state media,
television, et cetera, would the president prepare the people? And is that happening? Is there any sense on state television or in any of the state
media that there is a military -- a military -- I don't even know what to call it -- an invasion that could happen?
TRENIN: Well, Christiane, I think you're absolutely right. Had there been a real preparation for a real invasion, people in Russia would have had to
be "prepared" -- quote, unquote -- by the Russian government by the Kremlin to the inevitable sacrifice, inevitable losses, and inevitable hardships of
Nothing of that kind has been happening throughout all the time that the Western media were talking about an imminent Russian invasion. And that led
people like myself to conclude, among other things, that that invasion was not in the offing, was not coming.
AMANPOUR: Dmitri Trenin, thank you so much, really invaluable analysis and perspective from the inside. Thank you so much for joining us from Moscow.
Now, it is a wary and jittery world that we live in. An apparent cyberattack has hit the Ukrainian Defense Ministry Web site and one of the
country's largest banks. That is according to Ukrainian government agencies. So far, it's not clear who's responsible for the action.
But let's get straight to correspondent Alex Marquardt. He's in Mariupol, Ukraine.
So, Alex, tell me what you know about this cyberattack and what it actually means.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christiane, obviously, we're keeping a very close eye on all things to do
with cyber because of the potential for Russia to carry out a large-scale cyberattack alongside a more traditional military invasion.
We have already seen Russia engage in a huge amount of misinformation, disinformation to justify a potential invasion on their part. What we're
learning today is that there was a cyberattack on the Ministry of Defense's Web site, as well as the Web site of the largest commercial bank, private
This is what's known as a DDoS attack, or a denial of service attack. And, essentially, what happens in this case is that attackers flood those Web
sites in a way that people like you and me, common users on the Internet, cannot access those Web pages.
There is no sense that there is a widespread destruction when it comes to either the bank or the Ministry of Defense. For now, all we can tell is
that their pages are not able to be accessed.
We saw Web site defacements in Ukraine just a couple of weeks ago, which were accompanied by these ominous messages. But, of course, no military
action was taken alongside that. So, we're hesitant. We don't know who is behind this. That has not been attributed. And so we don't want to rush to
any sort of judgment.
For the time being, it appears that this attack was rather limited, both in terms of its scope and in terms of the destruction that it caused --
AMANPOUR: All right, well, it's good to get the very latest from you right there on the ground, Alex. Thanks a lot.
But what is it like to be Ukraine, perpetually in Russia's shadow? One country that knows exactly is Finland, which spent the whole of the Cold
War navigating that uneasy position.
Finland's current President Niinisto has become a vital bridge between Vladimir Putin and several American presidents, offering each side advice
and insight about the other.
I spoke to him in Helsinki in 2018, where he was hosting a summit between Putin and former President Trump also during a border crisis. And I asked
him what the Russian leader got from their meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAULI NIINISTO, PRESIDENT OF FINLAND: I think that, for him, it was important to be on equal foot with the American president.
But, actually, he left also with a kind of burden, those big issues. If they continue, they should also be solved somehow. And Russia has a key for
very many questions.
AMANPOUR: How worried are you still about Russia? The Cold War is over, and you turned West.
NIINISTO: Well, actually, we have always felt us as Western nation.
But, yes, we are a member of E.U. We are an enhanced partner of NATO. So, I a bit wonder naming us neutral.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, not neutral then.
Joining me with more inside, the former Finnish Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, who accompanied his president in some meetings
with President Putin.
Thank you for joining U.S., Foreign Minister Stubb.
I just want to ask you to put yourself back in those meetings, and tell us what you think is happening now. You have seen how the diplomacy is
unfolding. And you have been in the room, where you have had these negotiations before.
ALEXANDER STUBB, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF FINLAND: Well, I mean, the first observation is to say that Putin is one of the most intelligent and
probably strategic leaders that I have ever met.
And in my eight years in government, I had the chance to be face to face with a lot of people. So, he always has an astute analysis and a sense and
a presence and an understanding of what's going on. So, whatever he does, whether it's his speech in Munich in 2007, whether it is his attack in
Georgia in 2008, whether it's his annexation of Crimea in 2014, or now intimidation with Ukraine in 2022, it's all a part of a big plan.
So don't count him out.
AMANPOUR: Don't count him out. But what does that exactly mean, from your perspective?
And I led into you by saying that your president has often been the self- described interpreter between Putin's thinking and Western leaders. What should they be taking away from the situation right now?
Well, they should understand what the big plan of Putin here is. And the starting point is very simple. Putin thinks nostalgically about historic
Russia. And for that -- for him, that is Russia in the 1800s. And that Russia is based on three points.
Number one is a common language, Russian. Number two is a common religion, Russian Orthodox. And number three is a common leader. And that's Putin
himself. And what he sees happening right now is his great dream, the return to the great Russia, the Soviet Union, withering away.
And we have seen that in Ukraine. We saw it in Georgia, partially in Belarus. We have seen it in Moldova. He's having problems in Armenia. He is
not exactly super popular in the so-called stans. So he's seeing sort of this great empire withering away. And this is his thinking.
But I think, Christiane, one of the big problems here is that a lot of people are seeing this as sort of hard power and pure sort of NATO. No,
Ukraine is leaning towards Europe. It is a process of Europeanization. And that is what Putin is afraid of, because he doesn't like the liberal
international order portrayed in the European Union or by Europe.
AMANPOUR: Because he doesn't want it to affect Russians and his own hold on power, or what is the real reason?
If you say it's not about hard power, that the NATO idea may not be actually what's at the heart of his grand vision, why does he not want it?
Because it might threaten his own hold on power?
STUBB: A combination.
Putin thinks very much in terms of spheres of interest. And what he wants to do is basically to intimidate. So, that's why he has created this so-
called frozen conflict. So, Nagorno-Karabakh, Transnistria are two classic examples.
They were then added on by the war in Georgia, which created and South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The Crimean Peninsula, now Luhansk and Donbass are
part of this bigger game. So he wants to have his strongholds there. But he doesn't like the fact that countries like Ukraine is leaning towards
So, if you look at, for instance, trade between Russia and Ukraine, say, around 2010, it was quite high, roughly 20, 25 percent. Now it's down to
about 10 percent. So he sees sort of an economic sphere of interest falling away as well.
And we have to remember that we sometimes think about the world in old terms, that, actually, we can say that everything nowadays is weaponized.
The line between war and peace has been blurred. So you use energy, you use information, you use technology as instruments of war. And that is what
Putin is doing, may I say, from his perspective, quite successfully at the moment.
AMANPOUR: So you say quite successfully, and you may have heard my first guest, Dmitri Trenin, who's really plugged in from Moscow from the
Carnegie's center. And he said that Putin can pretty much pretty much declare victory from this round of this crisis, because he seems to have
announced on television that the diplomacy can continue, and that he feels, from his perspective, that he's got some of the things that he wanted in
terms of missile deployments and the other from NATO.
On the other hand -- so I want to know whether you agree with that perspective that he that he may have won a round, according to himself. On
the other hand, he has definitely solidified the anti-Russian sentiment in Ukraine. He has definitely strengthened NATO, the thing that he didn't want
to do, and we see that by their unified front over this crisis.
Has he won?
STUBB: Yes, so it's -- yes, so it's six of one, half-a-dozen the other
The answer is, yes, he has and, no, he has. The yes, he has part is that he has basically succeeded to bring Russia back into the game. Remember, for
Russia, and especially for President Putin, a lot of it is about respect. A lot of it is about attention. And a lot of it is about superpower
nostalgia, bringing back the good old Soviet Union and the Cold War.
So Russia needs to be seen, heard and reacted to. And he achieved that. Listen, we have had a revolving door of European leaders traveling to
Moscow. We have had hot telephone lines from all over. So Putin is back in the game, and he has won.
But you're absolutely right. Where he has lost -- and I think he knew this from the beginning. He sort of sees Ukraine as a lost cause already. And,
paradoxically, what has happened with NATO is, NATO was originally created as a repellent to the Soviet Union. Then, when the Cold War ended, and the
Soviet Union collapsed, it sort of had an existential crisis, started to do crisis management in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Finland was very involved.
And then it thought, OK, what are we going to do? And now, because of Russian threat, Article 5 is back in the game, and people understand that
we need NATO because of potential Russian threat. So, yes, he has won, but he has also lost.
AMANPOUR: So, from your perspective, if you say he's kind of factored in that Ukraine is -- quote, unquote -- "lost," the notion of Finlandization -
- I don't know how you react to that word, but you have seen it bandied around over the last couple of weeks anyway.
Do you -- is that something that you think is even on the table that Ukraine should pick up and run with, or it's irrelevant right now?
STUBB: Yes, well, my first answer is that, no, please don't mention the word. It's a sore point in Finnish history.
And, for us, it basically means that we had to sacrifice and compromise some of the basic values that we believed in, in order to survive as, at
the time, a neutral state next to a grand aggressor, the Soviet Union. That, for instance, meant encroaching on the freedom of press.
Books like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's "Gulag Archipelago" was difficult to publish in Finland at the time. And this comes from a country that gave
women the right to vote the second in the world, so we felt very uncomfortable about the so-called democratic process at the time.
Second point is that please do not compare Ukraine and Finland. I mean, I have a lot of admiration for Ukraine, but we have a different language, we
have a different culture, we have a different history, we have a different position.
And I think there's this sort of old-school misunderstanding of what Finlandization means. So, my answer directly, no, Finlandization, whatever
it means, is not an answer for Ukraine, except, except if it means Ukraine leaning towards the West. Then I can buy a little bit of that argument.
AMANPOUR: Well, that's interesting, because you have put -- you have tipped the scales with your thumb there and your preferences.
Your president told me a couple of years ago that he never felt Finland was neutral, certainly not since the end of the Cold War. So I thought that was
quite revealing as well.
AMANPOUR: Where do you think this is headed? And do you think that, with all of this crisis, Finland itself might decide to think about joining
STUBB: Sure, two answers here.
The first one on neutrality, actually, during the Cold War, we were saying that we were neutral, and as our president did as well, and we wanted
Russia to recognize our neutrality, but it didn't. Then, after -- but except later.
Then, after the Cold War, we immediately abandoned neutrality, and we became a country that does not belong to a military alliance. Now, the
interesting thing -- and here's my second answer -- Russian intimidation in Ukraine has basically reversed opinion polls on NATO membership, not
completely. There is still a larger part against NATO membership than for. But there's been a clear approachment between the two.
And if the question is posed that, were Finnish political leadership to support and recommend NATO membership, would it be fought against, then we
have more people for than against. So, in that sense as well, I think Putin has an -- from my perspective, it's good, because I'm an advocate of
Finnish NATO membership, have been since 1995.
Putin has actually pushed Finland in a direction where he didn't necessarily want to push Finland.
AMANPOUR: So, six of one, half-a-dozen of the other, as you say.
Foreign Minister Stubb, thank you so much indeed for joining us.
Now, unlike in 2014, when Putin invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea, NATO allies have, as we have been saying, mounted a stronger and more unified
front, but why has it taken so long and so much for this to happen?
My next guest says, follow the money. Just here in the U.K., the murky story of property buying, influence peddling, money laundering and
political donations by Russian oligarchs and others, who also own football clubs and send their kids to the country's most exclusive schools, is the
stuff of several gripping spy thrillers. Only, it's actually real-world life and work of the investigative journalist Catherine Belton.
She is the author of "Putin's People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took on the West."
Catherine Belton, welcome to our program. Thanks for being with us.
You have heard all the conversations, war and peace sitting on the edge. We have been discussing who's up, who's down, what is going to happen. But
you're saying that the money aspect has been one of the major ways that President Putin has exerted influence, a lot of influence, on the West.
Talk to me a little bit about that.
CATHERINE BELTON, AUTHOR, "PUTIN'S PEOPLE": Yes.
I mean, obviously, for more than two decades now, sort of Russian influence has been expanding into the West. And I think Putin was really banking more
on getting more of a return on his dollar, because, of course, he has Gerhard Schroeder, the former German chancellor, in his employ at two state
companies, Gazprom and on Rosneft, the two state energy majors.
He is also on the border of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline company in France. He has Francois Fillon, the former prime minister. And, in London, our own
Security and Intelligence Committee for Parliament has warned that Russian influence in the U.K. is now so deeply embedded, it's almost impossible to
So, really, he's had quite a deep imprint across Western politics for some time. And I think he was banking in these last months on greater weakness
from the West.
AMANPOUR: So, do you actually think -- are you surprised by the -- I guess, the relative strength of the West, as it's been projected over the
last several months?
BELTON: Yes, I think there has been a greater awareness really now sort of across Western Europe and in the U.S. of kind of the pernicious effects of
some of the Russian capital.
Most of the West was quite naive about Russia for most of the last two decades, or at least up until 2014 and Russia's annexation of Crimea.
I think, you know, people believe that Russia was a weak economic basket case, and that it was a good thing to do to open your doors wide to the
Russian cash, especially London did so, everyone thought that the more the Russian capital was integrated into Western markets, the more the Russian
government and the Russian companies would have to behave according to Western governance standards and so on, but, in fact, the opposite happens.
There was so much Russian cash flooding into London, for instance, it began to corrupt our institutions.
AMANPOUR: Well, it's really interesting because on one side of that, the idea of how much the West is dependent on Russian trade, let's just say,
natural gas and other such things. This has what's been, you know, historically the problem with trying to get unified, you know, front on
Today, Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, he announced he is going to -- rather he threatened to target Russian banks and companies from
raising capital in London if Russia does actually invade Ukraine. And this is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: What we're doing is targeting particular Russian banks, Russian companies, and making sure that we take
steps or take even more steps to unpeel the facade of Russian property holdings, whether in this city or elsewhere, whether in London or
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, I want to ask you how serious you think that is, and how effective that kind of statement can be, given, you know, what the
electoral commission here in the U.K. has said, that Russian-born donors or individuals with business links to Russia have given nearly 2 million
pounds to either the conservative party or individual consistency associations since Boris Johnson took power in July 2019
Again, that's calculations by the Labour Party, the opposition, from the Electoral Commission figures. Do those figures ring true according to your
investigations? And how much does that affect, you know, a government who threatens to impose tough sanctions against those very donors?
BELTON: I think right now, I think there is a much greater awareness in the U.K. government. You heard that right now from Boris Johnson's own
words. And just last week, the U.K. government forwarded legislation which allows the U.K. to really very widely broaden its sanctions regime against
Russia. It can now target any entity that is carrying out any business of strategic significance for the Kremlin or has received any benefit,
economic or material, from the Russian government. And that really does strengthen the regime.
And I think were there to be a full-scale Russian invasion, then the U.K. government would really have no choice but to go after some of this cash.
And that means that most importantly of all, the Russian state banks, which are listed on the London Stock Exchange, could be targeted and it could
mean a delisting. I mean, this was really perhaps the most pernicious kind of influence in London over the last 50 years or so.
In 2007, there were two major listings by Russia's biggest state banks, Sberbank and VTB. And while the West was sort of busy rushing to get a
slice of the fat fees and the cash, these were institutions which never had any intention really of becoming more liberal or more transparent. VTB,
Russia's second biggest state bank, is known as the bank for Russian Special Operations, and we have all seen the role that it played in some of
these black cash operations for the Putin regime and revelations in the Panama Papers, it plays a key role in funneling some of Putin's offshore
cash. And yet, it's listed on the London Stock Exchange.
So, I think the U.K. government is now really equipped to do something about Russian influence in the city, but I'm afraid the Tory Party, I mean,
until now has been reluctant to address this precisely because of the figures you just mentioned, because it's been very willingly taking a great
deal of money from Russian donors who have presented themselves perhaps in the past as dissidents. They are saying, we're exiles from Russia. We have
cut off ties from the Putin regime, but that's actually turned out not to be the case with some of the biggest donors. They continue to have links
with Kremlin businessmen or other types of business relations, which means that they're vulnerable to taking Kremlin orders, and we don't really know
what their agenda has been.
AMANPOUR: You know, I just need to ask you, I mean, a lot of this stuff happens legally, right? I mean, you're not saying that everything that's
happened here is illegal.
BELTON: No, of course not. The Russians who are making donations to the U.K. conservative party, that for the most -- well, they're all British
citizens who have left Russia quite some time ago. So, they can legally make donations to the Tory Party. But the question is about their sort of
continued and ongoing business ties with operatives close to the Kremlin.
There was one, a particular Tory donor, (INAUDIBLE), who has donated more than a million pounds to the tory party. Again, there's nothing illegal
about this activity, but the problem is, there have been revelations in the Pandora Papers which show she gains most of her money from her husband. Her
husband was a deputy finance minister early on in the Putin regime.
And although, he is also a British citizen and left quite some time ago in 2004, other revelations from the (INAUDIBLE) files have shown that he's
received considerable sums of money, in fact 8 million pounds, from an oligarch who has very, very close links to the Kremlin shortly before his
wife began donating. And this is a person who is also been actively in business with Kremlin officials right up until 2017. So, there hasn't
really been sufficient scrutiny of some of these individuals.
AMANPOUR: And just in the few seconds we have left, you wrote the book, "Putin's People," in which you got some on the record, you know, interviews
about the effect of all of this. What surprised you the most about what you're telling us now and how it all started onto Putin's Russia? Or didn't
it start there? Where did it start?
BELTON: And I think one of the most interesting things in my research was really about sort of how long ago these practices stretch back to. And that
was the most -- really most interesting point, because actually, what we're seeing now is a repetition of a playbook that was first developed in the
'70s and '80s when the KGB of the Soviet Union used companies and intermediaries to fund political operations, to fund influence operations.
I think they had a lot less cash at their command then, but they used kind of shady trading deals to funnel money to the communist party abroad and to
fund KGB operations, and we see that repeated now on a much grander scale.
AMANPOUR: It's an amazing story. Thank you so much indeed. Author of "Putin's People."
And next, NATO membership has become a focal point in tensions between Russia and the West as we have been discussing. Kay bailey Hutchison served
as the U.S. ambassador to NATO during the Trump administration. And she now analyzes the situation with Walter Isaacson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Christiane. And Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison, welcome to the show.
KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO AND FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Thank you, Walter. Great to be with you.
ISAACSON: So, you have been ambassador to NATO. You know all about how diplomacy works. As a Republican leader on foreign policy, how well do you
think the Biden administration is handling this?
HUTCHISON: I think that he is doing the right thing to keep the door open on diplomacy because we're not sure how serious President Putin has been,
but we have taken him at his word. And we have put our allies on notice. We have worked with our allies to stay united. And I think that if in fact the
de-escalation occurs, then I think it has certainly been the right thing.
I do think that this is also a signal for something that we ought to start working on together in a bipartisan way, and that is creating more natural
gas capabilities for America to go into Europe with LNG. We have lagged too long in helping our allies and working with our allies to provide natural
gas at reasonable prices. Now, we can do it. And I think that is something we should focus on and can in a bipartisan way, to make sure that Europe is
never under Russia's thumb for its basic safety and security of being warm in the winter.
ISAACSON: Secretary of State Tony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan have decided to be very public, step by step, day by day,
about what's happening, what Russia's intentions are, where their troops are, what they're saying, as if that could help resolve the situation. Do
you -- it seems like a new strategy to me, to almost sort of flag what you think Putin's next move is going to be, to explain everything hour by hour.
Do you think that makes sense in this new digital age?
HUTCHISON: Actually, I do. I think that that has been a new way of dealing with all of the cyber and hybrid that we have out there, to just call it
what it is, and call out Russia, and say, this is -- and I think also, this administration has been very clear that we want our people to leave. We
want to make sure that we are preparing for the worst, even while we are having diplomacy to try to avoid any kind of takeover or entrance into
Ukraine on the part of Russia.
And I do think that it has been good that we have shared what our intelligence is, what we are hearing, that it is imminent, that it could
happen. And I think that has caused a pause. And maybe it is a new strategy, but I think if it works, that we should declare that, OK, we're
going to call out when we see the possibility of something like this happening. Because clearly, in Afghanistan, people were not prepared. Our
people were not prepared. And maybe we have learned the lesson from that, which would be very helpful.
ISAACSON: The Trump administration and President Trump himself were rather friendly at times, in a confusing way, with Vladimir Putin and some of
Russia. Do you think that muddied the situation so it was unclear what America's interests were vis-a-vis Russia?
HUTCHISON: Well, you know, I thought it was a dynamic that I didn't understand. But everything that the administration did was being very tough
on Russia. Certainly, the sanctions on Nord Stream 2. But I didn't understand the dynamics, which I don't think others did as well, but when
you look at the policies, the policies were tough and right, and showed that we would do what we said we were going to do.
ISAACSON: One possible resolution of this is rather simple, although maybe hard to get to, which is for Ukraine to say that it's not planning to join
NATO and for NATO to say, no, we're not going to have Ukraine as a member. It's not something that probably could be said outright and signed into a
treaty, but if everybody could make it clear that Ukraine was not joining NATO, wouldn't that resolve the problem? And should that be a possible
HUTCHISON: Walter, I think that would be a sign of weakness. And I don't think NATO will ever say, we're not going to take in a country that
qualifies, and Ukraine has not qualified for NATO. They're not close to qualifying. Everyone knows that because they have a corruption issue. But
President Zelensky was elected on a reform platform. He is trying to solve that issue. And we want him to be able to have a good economy, a solid
resilient democracy, and a rule of law, and a place where people can live in freedom.
But I have to say, he should never say, we're not going to join NATO, under the thumb of Russia demanding it. And NATO will never do that, either. Even
though, at this point and in the near future, they would not meet the qualifications of a resilient democracy, but they're working toward it, and
we're going to encourage them to do that.
ISAACSON: Well, explain to me why NATO should have what's called the open- door policy where former Soviet states like Georgia or Ukraine could be invited in in a way that threatens Russia, you know, if you want to see it
from their perspective, that really puts a hostile alliance right on their border. Why is it that we should be sending our troops to have an open-door
to allow these countries to be part of an alliance when historically they have been part of a seer of influence that the Russians have had?
HUTCHISON: First of all, NATO is a defense alliance. It has never been aggressive. It is not going to be aggressive. Secondly, the open-door has
immensely solidified Europe, both economically and in security, because of the former Soviet republics that are now in NATO because they have met the
We want every country to have the solid capability to defend itself and to have allies that will stand with it. That's what NATO is. It's never been
aggressive. And I think that that's a false premise that Putin puts out that we feel threatened by Europe being on our edge and more of our former
Soviet participants would be able to have freedom, to have real democracy, to have rule of law, and that's a Putin front. It was one of the things
that he's saying for why he's in Donbas, taking part of Ukraine right now, that I'm protecting my citizens from this Western corruption. What? I mean,
that doesn't make sense.
So, I think that we will have an open-door for NATO. It is the right thing. It has strengthened the security of Europe and most certainly strengthened
ISAACSON: Five major liquefied natural gas ships heading to Europe now from your State of Texas and mine of Louisiana. Do you think we should be
producing more liquefied natural gas, more gas and sending it over to Europe and then, trying to stop the Nord Stream pipeline where Europe is
going to be getting a lot of its gas if we don't?
HUTCHISON: Oh, I definitely do. I think that is a foreign policy and a security issue that we should be producing more natural gas, this
administration should welcome natural gas. It is safe. It is secure. But it is also clean. And I think they have made a mistake in painting natural gas
with the broad brush of carbon emissions. It is a clean energy.
That and nuclear, I have to say, have been ignored in the energy security field, and I think we need to bring that back. I think that deserves a big
discussion in Washington. I hope the administration will see this as a security issue, and I think producing more of our own capabilities most
certainly for us to be energy independent, but also to make our European allies' energy independent.
ISAACSON: What should we do with the Nord Stream pipeline bringing gas from Russia to Europe?
HUTCHISON: Well, I think that we should have kept sanctions on because it was working. The second pipeline has not opened. And of course, Germany has
come around to saying, if Russia invades Ukraine, that it won't. That's very important. And I have to say President Biden worked very hard on that.
But I do think the first mistake was lifting the sanctions in the first place. Because we should never, A, let Russia have a stranglehold on
European natural gas and warmth in the winter.
But secondly, we don't want to prop up his economy so that he can do more malware, which we know has been happening all over our NATO alliance, as
well as America and Canada.
ISAACSON: One of the strategies of Henry Kissinger when he was running American diplomacy was that he saw linkages all over. He could figure out
that if you touch something here and this part of Russia, it would be like a web and it would reverberate in Vietnam or Cambodia or China. To what
extent do you think what's happening right now reverberates in the Taiwan/China issue, and are you worried about China forming an alliance
with Russia if we impose too many sanctions?
HUTCHISON: Well, on your first point, I think Henry Kissinger was a genius at that. And I think the basic principle is that you want your adversaries
to fear you. You want your allies to trust you. And if your allies trust you and your adversaries know you're going to do what you say you're going
to do, that is our best security posture. And that was a Kissinger/Nixon policy, and it was followed through in successive administrations.
But I do think now that we are looking at both China and Russia testing us, I think they have seen the weakness in both Afghanistan but also in
thinking that maybe the alliance would be split off because you do have Europeans who like dialogue. They like to have diplomacy. And I think we
are being tested.
But on your point of will Russia and China have an alliance, I think that they will have an alliance in the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and if
they can use to their separate advantages that we are diverted, say, in one place then China could take advantage of that because we're doing, of
course, Ukraine, to start pinging on Taiwan, because we know that that is a long-term goal for China. And I think that in that instance they are
allies, but I don't see, at this point, that they will be allies on an equal-to-equal basis. I think their cultures are different. I think their
tactics are different. I think their capabilities are different.
China has a much larger economy and a much stronger capability in every respect than Russia. Although, Russia certainly plays a bad hand well. They
do a lot with what they have. And I think they will work together to torment the West. But would they ever become allies in the sense that they
would be equals? I don't see that.
ISAACSON: If China starts to use this Ukraine crisis to encircle Taiwan, but more pressure on Taiwan, perhaps even threaten to invade Taiwan, what
should we do?
HUTCHISON: Oh, Walter, that is such a tough question. And I think that we need to stand with Taiwan in every possible way. And I think we have a lot
of dialogue and a lot of honesty about what China is doing, what -- they have broken their word with Hong Kong. They made an agreement with U.K.
that Hong Kong would have an autonomy.
And if they do the same thing with Taiwan, which you have to say as a realist that that is a possibility, and you have to see it the way China
has built those islands in the South China Sea. They said they wouldn't be militarized, but we know now that they have submarine bases under those
islands. So, they are not keeping their word, just like Russia isn't. And we have to deal with people who are not going to make an agreement and keep
it. I think we have got to stand for these Western democracies that have free people and it's important for allies, for Western allies to stand
ISAACSON: Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison, thanks so much for joining us.
HUTCHISON: Hey, thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And finally, tonight, sports. Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, get on your skis. It's slalom time. Benjamin Alexander is Jamaica's first
ever Olympic alpine skier. In a snowless climb, he first strapped skis on just six years ago. This week, he raced in the Beijing Olympics in blizzard
conditions. Completing the giant slalom's ice river course was no easy task. 35 athletes simply couldn't finish at all. But for the 38-year-old
Benjamin Alexander, just crossing the finish line was as good as winning, even though the Jamaican did post the slowest time. But he says he achieved
his crazy dream. And he said, that was for everyone who thinks they don't belong in skiing. Let's change the game.
That's it for now. Remember, you can always catch us online. Thanks for watching. And good-bye from London.