Return to Transcripts main page
Interview With Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis; Interview With Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired February 22, 2022 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Putin marches troops into Ukraine. The West cuts off the Nord Stream gas pipeline. Will it deter him? I speak with the
European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, the Lithuanian foreign minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis.
MELANIE JOLY, CANADIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: We are preoccupied with the funding of these blockades. We want inquiries.
AMANPOUR: Amid COVID protests rocking Ottawa, Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly joins me on how to support Ukraine economically and
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
When is an invasion an invasion? And in vowing retaliation, what is severe and swift? We await President Biden's remarks on that shortly.
And, in the meantime, we will ask our top-level guests tonight, now that Russia's Vladimir Putin has sent his actual army into the breakaway rebel
areas of Eastern Ukraine, after weeks of these kinds of assurances:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SERGEI RYABKOV, RUSSIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER: We will not attack strike, "invade" -- quote unquote -- whatever, Ukraine.
SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): If it is up to the Russian Federation, there will be no war. We don't want a war.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Do we want it or no? Of course not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: But Russian forces are officially inside Ukraine. Germany's new chancellor has reacted quickly, no Nord Stream gas pipeline for Russia now.
The United States is expected to impose a whole new raft of sanctions. And, meanwhile, in Kyiv, the embattled President Volodymyr Zelensky continues to
project calm, while saying his nation will defend itself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): With regards to being on a military footing, we understand that there will be no war.
There will not be an all-out war against Ukraine. And there will not be a broad escalation from Russia. If there is, then we will put Ukraine on a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And, as for France trying to broker that summit between Presidents Biden and Putin, well, the Elysee Palace now says these de-
escalation attempts have not been completely successful.
But maybe they have, for effort, at least, and for exposing once and for all the historic mythmaking, the epic truth-bending and the blatant barrage
of disinformation from Vladimir Putin.
Here now is Ivo Daalder. He was the U.S. ambassador to NATO under President Obama.
Welcome back to our program, Ambassador Daalder.
So can I just first start, because everybody's tinkering around with semantics now, is it an invasion or not? How do you define what just
IVO DAALDER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Of course it's an invasion. This is Ukrainian territory. It's always been Ukrainian territory. And
Russian troops and tanks that moved across the border, not just for the first time. They have been doing it since 2014.
But, in this particular case, it is the beginning of an invasion that is likely to extend far beyond where the rebel forces are today, far beyond
the borders of the two republics that Russia has declared independent, as if that is something that Russia can do.
And I think, unfortunately, all the way to Kyiv, if not beyond. We are definitely at the brink of a major military confrontation that started with
invading forces that happened overnight.
AMANPOUR: So, then, as I asked in retaliation, the West has been very clear that there's going to be swift and severe economic costs for Russia.
Are you seeing that? I mean, Nord Stream is a big deal. What else are you seeing?
DAALDER: Nord Stream is a big deal.
I think there has been a little bit of hesitation in the first instances to go much further. I expect that the United States and soon others will
follow with the severe and swift sanctions that they have promised. There's no doubt in anybody's mind that this is not just some minor incursion or
anything of the kind.
After Putin's speech yesterday, in which he frankly denied that Ukraine was a legitimate state, let alone an independent and sovereign one, there is no
question left in anybody's mind that what Putin is after is the complete and total control of Ukraine. He will use military force to do that.
And the best way to at least punish him, if not prevent him from going further, is by now instituting these sanctions that have been long been
AMANPOUR: You mentioned that in a series of tweets and suggestions about what the world should do. So one is the swift and severe sanctions. The
other, you said, is to bolster military support for Ukraine to defend itself.
Well, we're told that that's been happening. What does it need right now? Can it actually defend itself against a much mightier Russian army?
DAALDER: Well, it won't be able to defend itself in terms of completely holding off Russian forces and occupying Ukrainian territory.
But there are a couple of things more that we can do. First, we can provide them with the best intelligence information that we have. We are continuing
to fly reconnaissance planes. We have signal intelligence intercepting communications. We have overhead satellite intelligence.
And all of this, we should give to the Ukrainians, so they have a better chance of defending themselves. Second, we should continue and, if not
bolster, the kind of materiel, the kind of weapons that we're sending to Ukraine, primarily focused on anti-tank weapons, on counterartillery
battery and counter-radar weapons, air defense capabilities and the like.
And then, third, if and when Ukrainian forces get overrun, we're going to be in -- not at the end of the war. We're going to be in the beginning of
an insurgency. The United States and its allies have been fighting an insurgency for the past 20 years. We have a pretty good sense of how an
asymmetrical warfare can be applied.
We did it successfully against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and I would expect us to help Ukraine defend as best as it can in such a situation as
well. This is not over. This is something that is just at the very, very beginnings of the stage. And we -- if we're not going to defend Ukraine
directly, if we decided, since it's not a NATO member, we won't, we should help the Ukrainians with whatever we can to defend themselves.
AMANPOUR: And you also added activate the NATO rapid response or the Response Force and reinforce defense of eastern allies, those which are
Do you think -- I mean, do you think that Putin knows when to stop, that he would not take on a NATO country, because that would trigger Article 5?
DAALDER: So, I worry that he may become a little overconfident.
I think the Putin we saw yesterday on television was a man who clearly has in his mind that he wants to turn the clock back to 1990, when the Soviet
Union still existed, and, frankly, when the Soviet Union was able to control what was happening in Central and Eastern Europe.
So I think we need to dissuade him. We need to remind him that there are limits beyond which he cannot go, except at the risk of major military
force. I'm particularly worried about the Baltic states. The deployment of Russian troops in Belarus, which, yesterday, the announcement was, will be
there indefinitely, provides the Russians with the capacity of quickly cutting off the Baltic states from a direct land defense of NATO.
And I worry about the possibility that that will happen. And then we are faced with the confrontation in the Baltic states. The same is true for
Poland. The same is true for Romania. The NATO Response Force is designed to rapidly redeployed -- be deployed and reinforce allied countries.
And I think it is absolutely imperative that the United States and all NATO members now make very, very clear to Vladimir Putin that whatever is
happening in Ukraine cannot, must not and will not happen to any NATO country, and that, therefore, we will have the forces capable of defending
So, I mean, that assumes that this, in the worst-case scenario, would remain a conventional war. And I wonder whether you still believe that that
mutually assured deterrence that we had in the Cold War still is in the mind of the Russian leader. And do you know, can you evaluate the relative
strength of the Russian military, compared to NATO's military?
We heard several years ago that the Russian military was no match for NATO and the United States. Now we hear that he's been building up and building
up and building up certainly since 2007, 2014.
What is the relative strength of each side?
DAALDER: Well, the relative strength still overwhelmingly is in the Western -- in the Western favor, but he has geography on his side. He has
troops now in the immediate vicinity NATO territory.
And the more he moves into Ukraine, the further those troops will move. When you have 190,000 troops mobilized, as Russia now has, that's not what
NATO has in the east. The U.S. has just doubled the number of troops in Poland from 4,500 to 9,000. It's doubled the number of troops in Romania
from 1,000 to 2,000. Other NATO countries have bolstered the defense in the Baltic states.
But we're talking about numbers that are in the low thousands, as opposed to the tens, let alone hundreds of thousands. And so, in order to defend
these countries, you have to deter the first attack. And, ultimately, I have no doubt that, in a major conventional war, which no one wants in this
part of the world, but that, in a major conventional war, the United States and its NATO allies will be able to recapture territory.
That's why it's so important to reinforce now, to send the message to Vladimir Putin, whatever he may have in mind in Kyiv, and Ukraine, must
not, cannot extend to NATO territory, because, if it does, we are, in fact, in a major war, the likes of which we have not seen since 1945.
AMANPOUR: I mean, I don't even want to ask this question, but do you think somebody like Putin, I mean, could employ the worst option and non-
DAALDER: You know, one would hope that the mutual assured destruction that you mentioned, the reality that any use of nuclear weapons against the
United States or one of its allies would lead to swift retaliation with nuclear weapons by the United States, indeed, by possibly France and
Britain, which are also independent nuclear powers, would be sufficient to dissuade Vladimir Putin.
I don't think we're going to -- we're heading to nuclear war. All I do think is that the kind of rhetoric we have been seeing out of Russia makes
one wonder. Clearly, over the weekend, you recall, Vladimir Putin was sitting in his situation center looking at nuclear exercises, small-scale,
nothing particularly new.
But the message here was and continues to be that Russia is a major nuclear power. He accused Ukraine yesterday of acquiring nuclear weapons, Ukraine
of acquiring nuclear weapons, of all countries. This is a country that gave up its nuclear weapons in 1984 -- in 1994, and yet here he stands -- the
country stands accused.
AMANPOUR: And that's why I'm asking you, Ambassador, because of what he just said in his speech, those exercises that he was ostentatiously
photographed taking part in, and this so-called referendum in Belarus over the weekend that is meant to be a referendum on its neutrality; i.e., will
it get Russian nukes into Belarus?
That could be determined this weekend.
DAALDER: Well, you have that.
And, of course, you already have a nuclear-capable, if not actual nuclear missiles, deployed in Kaliningrad, a small outpost that Russia -- is
Russian territory between Poland and Lithuania.
We are in a dangerous situation. And that is why it is extremely important for the United States, for the NATO allies to make absolutely clear not
only what's at stake by implementing the sanctions that have been long been promised, but also to make clear that NATO is ready to defend every inch of
NATO territory. That's what President Biden said. That's what Vice President Harris said over the weekend in Munich.
And this is the time for all of us to stand together and hope that Vladimir Putin gets the message. He hasn't gotten the message so far when it comes
to Ukraine. On the other hand, he also hasn't threatened NATO territory directly. And we better hope that it stays that way. And the best way to
hope that is to have strong capabilities deployed as soon as possible to Eastern Europe, to the Baltic states, to Poland and Romania, in order to
make absolutely clear that that territory will be defended by the United States and by all NATO countries.
AMANPOUR: And if that happens, he will have provoked exactly the thing that he didn't want to provoke, more forces, more NATO, more
I just want to ask you, from a U.S. perspective, because, already, the Russians, certainly the prime minister, Medvedev, is gloating on Twitter
about Nord Stream being pulled and, oh, welcome to the world of, I don't know what he said, $100, $200 barrel of oil and natural gas, et cetera.
Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, who was at the Munich Security Conference, has been tweeting. And you know she's a former CIA analyst. She basically
says, the most immediate impact for the average American, the price of gas is about to spike, which is a tough blow on top of a year of terribly high
She goes on about the need for economic consequences, not just against Putin, but also for the oligarch wives, mistresses, their assets that they
shelter abroad. And, again, crucially: "Americans will not be immune from the economic consequences of Putin's violence. We will see the effects in
the coming days and weeks. What happens overseas has real-world impact back home. We must be prepared."
From your perspective, has America been prepared for this? How will America tolerate a presumed spike in gas prices, for instance?
DAALDER: Well, the president has been talking about it. I think he's been out four or five times giving major speeches and press conferences in the
past few weeks to warn not just Vladimir Putin for not moving in this direction, but also to warn the American public that this is a very serious
I think we will continue to see that kind of communication. And I think Congressman -- Congresswoman Slotkin is right. We're all going to be paying
a price. But that only underscores how interdependent, how connected we are to the rest of the world.
Moreover, the people who are really going to pay the big price are now -- are in Europe, where gas prices have already spiked significantly. We're
still in winter. There is still heating that is needed. The decision to stop Nord Stream 2, the right decision by the German government, but a big
one, means that natural gas prices are going to continue to go up.
The Biden administration, working with the E.U., has been looking for alternative sources of energy within Qatar and other places to replace
whatever gas is not coming through Russian pipelines. The reality is, prices will go up, at least in the short term. But in the long term, we
also now know that being dependent on Russia for gas or oil is not a particularly smart thing for people in Europe to do.
DAALDER: And I hope the lesson is to change that.
AMANPOUR: Indeed, indeed.
Ambassador Ivo Daalder, thank you so much.
And now to the NATO secretary-general. Jens Stoltenberg says that Russia is still planning a full-scale attack of Ukraine and that the alliance is
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL: We have over 100 jets at high alert. And there are more than 120 other ships at the sea from the high
north to the Mediterranean.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, today, Putin said the Minsk Agreement no longer exists. That is the very agreement he's been talking about through these many, many
months of crisis as a way out of this situation.
And, as we just discussed with Ambassador Daalder, he even accused Ukraine of wanting to build a stockpile of nuclear weapons. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PUTIN (through translator): So what they are saying in Kyiv is just not acceptable, and that entire militarization is absolutely not acceptable,
especially since Ukraine is talking about their nuclear ambitions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: As a Baltic state, Lithuania is well-versed in the crude intimidation and nuclear peril, first from the Soviet Union, and, ever
since joining NATO, from Vladimir Putin.
Today, the nation said Putin just put Kafka and Orwell to shame with his overnight move into Ukraine and his preceding rambling television address.
Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis joins me now from an emergency security meeting that had been convened in Paris.
Foreign Minister, welcome to the program.
Can I start by asking you to define, as I asked my previous guest, what is an invasion? To your mind and your nation's mind, is what Putin has done an
invasion of Ukraine?
GABRIELIUS LANDSBERGIS, LITHUANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, if you consider sovereign territory and territorial integrity an important thing.
So entering that territory with troops is an invasion. And it doesn't matter whether parts of that territory were recognized as sort of
independent republics, as Russian Parliament just did a day ago. But, still, we are seeing that Russian troops are entering what was -- used to
be, and, in practice, it still is, a Ukrainian territory.
So, in our eyes, it is an invasion.
AMANPOUR: So what do you think needs to be the next move? We have talked about President Biden is going to be announcing.
We also know that and we're about to hear the European announcements that they want to make a clear lesson and a clear message. Is it enough, as far
as you're concerned? Again, you are right there in the danger zone.
LANDSBERGIS: Well, there are two things about it.
First of all, we need to be very clear about, what are we trying to achieve here? Do we try -- are we trying to punish Putin and Russia for what they
already did to Ukraine, with terrorizing the country, with putting enormous economic pressure on Ukrainian budget and then finances, or are we trying
So I'm not fully convinced that what we are doing actually is going to deter. Therefore, today, with -- when I was speaking in them in the
council, in the ministerial council here in Paris, I have suggested that we need to review the situation with every day passing, that it would need to
reflect the current situation on the ground.
If we close down and we say that this is the package, we adopted a sanctions package and this is it, then this is just a very small slap on
the wrist that would actually be an invitation to go in even further.
So, our message has to be very clear. We would follow up every day.
Now, your question was about how we feel on the front line on the NATO side. Well, to be honest, we are very worried about the current
developments, not only on Ukrainian border, but about the things that are happening in another country, in Belarus. There's more than 30,000 troops,
Russian troops' buildup in Belarusian territory, some of them are on Lithuanian-Polish border.
It changes the situation on -- in our region dramatically. And I think that it has -- its merits a response from NATO as well.
AMANPOUR: What kind of response?
LANDSBERGIS: Well, I think we have to be very clear that deterrence, a theoretical deterrence, might not be enough.
We have to show that the region will be and can be defended by the -- not just by the 5th Article, but by actual troops and equipment, because you
have to imagine that, months ago, Russian troops were hundreds of kilometers away from NATO border. Now they are on NATO border.
So, the reaction time is that much different than it was just very recently. So, the plans that have to -- that NATO has, they have to be
reviewed. And the placement of troops also has to be -- that has to be reviewed.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you, beyond what you're talking about militarily right now, because it's really important?
Putin went on for more than an hour last night. He had another press conference today. He's basically said that Ukraine never existed as an
independent state, that the Kyiv government has been militarizing, and, as you heard, I mean, the fantastical notion that it was trying to build
nuclear weapons, after we know, point blank, that in '94 it gave up its nuclear weapons in order for Russia and others to guarantee its
sovereignty, and et cetera and et cetera.
Your prime minister put out a tweet today that many have been repeating, saying: "Putin just put Kafka and Orwell to shame. No limits to dictator's
imagination, no lows too low, no lies too blatant, no red lines too red to cross. What we witnessed tonight might seem surreal for democratic world,
but the way we respond will define us for generations to come."
Take the first part of that first, because it's important. Clearly, I guess he believes what he's saying, but he's trying to persuade his people and
others that he's right.
Which part of it is Kafka and Orwell to you?
Foreign Minister, can you hear? Yes.
LANDSBERGIS: Well, I think what we're facing is sort of -- I can hear you. Can you hear me?
AMANPOUR: Yes, go ahead.
LANDSBERGIS: I think that what we're seeing is this political or even geopolitical surrealism that we thought that was that over, maybe some
would say, by the end of the Cold War.
And -- but what -- for example, for me, it reminds me the ramblings of Adolf Hitler as well, when he was having these ideas of Lebensraum and all
that, calling the people that surrounded -- surrounded Germany, different kinds that were -- that he almost expected to evaporate and then allow the
German population to take over.
So, this is actually why it's so surreal, because we thought that it is over, after the Second World War was won by the Allies. But, apparently, it
And it appears that Putin is signing his name to the list of the dictators, not in the like of 21st century, but of the like of the 20th century. So
this is why it is -- we're seeing this -- a ghost of the Second World War past.
AMANPOUR: I want to put this out, because you mentioned Hitler. And other people have used the word Anschluss to describe what may or may not happen
in Belarus. Now, that's obviously big concern for you, as you said.
There is to be a referendum, as I mentioned with Ambassador Daalder, this weekend about Belarus' neutrality, and about nuclear weapons potentially
being placed, Russian forces and weapons being placed there, and, in fact, Russia running Belarus.
Play -- game-play this for me. What will happen after this referendum in Belarus? And what will it mean for your country?
LANDSBERGIS: Well, I think that what we're seeing and what worries us much, that what limited sovereignty Belarusia still had, I think that it is
losing it within our eyes.
To give you just one example, Foreign Minister Makei mentions that -- and he's knowledgeable that Russian troops will leave Belarus on 20th of
February. The day comes, the day is passed, and the troops remain.
That means that, basically, was called the political leadership, the government of Belarus is no longer making any decisions in the country.
It's Putin, it's Russia, it's Kremlin who are sending the troops to Belarus and ordering them to stay there. And nobody except Putin will make -- can
So, when you think about it, it's basically a bloodless occupation of a country. The troops went in, they are staying there, and they will continue
staying there indefinitely.
So, this is a dramatic change. And I have to be -- I have to admit that it does not, it cannot be lost from our eyesight, while we're so much focused
on Ukraine, because there are more changes within the region happening at the same time.
AMANPOUR: Well, to that point, let me just read what the E.U. foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said about this very issue.
He said: "Belarus is losing its nuclear neutrality. It is in the process of satellization with respect to Russia."
You have called for sanctions against Belarus. Tell me what you want to see to defang Belarus and deter it.
LANDSBERGIS: There are still ways that a Belarusian regime is financing itself.
And one of the means is portage export. It brings a lot of cash to -- not only to the company, but by the company to the Belarusian regime, allowing
it to finance itself. And for a lot of clients for this enterprise is actually still in the West.
So one of the -- one -- this is one of the reasons why I have called for additional sanctions. There are some sanctions on the portage sector from
Belarus, but it's clearly not enough in order to stop the flow of finances to the company and to the regime.
Therefore, this was one of the requests that I made yesterday to other ministers here in Brussels.
AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister, let me just put to you what Dmitry Medvedev has said, the former president and prime minister of Russia, now deputy
chair of the Security Council there.
He responded to what the German chancellor did, which was to halt the Nord Stream today. He said: "German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has issued an order
to halt the process of certifying the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Well, welcome to the brave new world where Europeans are very soon going to pay
2,000 euros for 1,000 cubic meters of natural gas!"
In other words, he's gloating.
Again, how does this affect you? What do you say to Europe about their energy needs? And what have you done in your country precisely because of
this kind of extortion?
LANDSBERGIS: That's an excellent question.
I don't think that Europe will be paying 2,000 euros per metric ton of gas. I think that Europe will be building LNG terminals, building new pipelines
and actually going green much faster than it was planning to do before."
Lithuania is one of the good examples in the continent of how we are doing dealing with energy coercion and an extortion in some cases. Up until 2014,
Lithuania was paying probably one of the highest prices for natural gas in Europe. And we built a floating LNG terminal, which is very appropriately
Now we are able to purchase our natural gas from anywhere in the world, U.S. as well. And we're doing just that. And now our prices is very
reasonable compared to what other countries are doing.
So, there's a lot of lessons to learn here. That as a previous person who spoke before me said very rightfully is that building dependence on Russian
natural resources is probably not the smartest way to go. And now, it's clearly the time to decouple and find other ways either going to purchase
the energy or go green at all.
AMANPOUR: It's really, really interesting. Foreign Minister of Lithuania, thank you so much indeed for joining us.
Now, many experts say that this could be the darkest day for Europe in the free world since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and certainly, the most
serious peril to confront us since the end of the Cold War. So, again, how will Putin be deterred? Ursula von der Leyen is the president of the
European Commission and she's joining me now from Brussels where they have also laid out and starting to announce a round of sanctions.
Thank you and welcome back to this program at a moment of high crisis.
Can I first ask you what I have asked all my other guests, is this an invasion? Do you at the E.U. at the highest levels define what Russia has
done as an invasion of Ukraine?
URSULA VON DER LEYEN, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: At moment, being itself, it is not a military invasion, but it is a serious breach of
international law. The recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent and it is violating the sovereignty and the integrity of Ukraine. And,
therefore, we have agreed we as the European Union, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada to start with a package of robust sanctions that
we will deliver today here in the European Union and our friends too.
AMANPOUR: I'm going to get to those precise sanctions in a moment, but can you explain to me why you don't call it an invasion or a reinvasion? There
are troops and military hardware that have crossed a border from one country into another.
VON DER LEYEN: So, what we see is that Donetsk and Luhansk has been occupied since almost eight years now. And for us, it's important that we
closely watch the actions of Russia and we respond to the actions of Russia. Russia is responsible for this crisis. Russia is responsible for
the escalation. And therefore, our sanctions package, the first one we are delivering now is well calibrated but we are also very clear if there's any
further military action against Ukraine that we see there will be a massive and robust second package that is coming. It is well prepared.
Since weeks, we have been working on it. It is an unprecedented cooperation with the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada and us, and this is
very clear that Russia will have to pay a price, and it is President Putin who will have to explain to his people why he's putting this enormous price
AMANPOUR: So, tell us then what you are unveiling now to deter him in this instance, in this stage of the aggression?
VON DER LEYEN: Right now, first of all, there's a massive listing of personalities, many parliaments of the Duma who are involved in the
recognition, the decision take -- to recognize Donetsk and Luhansk. Secondly, and most importantly, there is action to list banks that are
involved in the financing of the military and in strategic investments. Listing means, freeze their assets, cut them off the market, the European
market so no way to finance at all anymore in the European Union, but also in the United States or Canada or the United Kingdom.
The next part is to make sure that the Russian government has no possibility anymore to access the financial markets of the countries I have
just quoted. So, complete cutting off of the European financial market but also the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. And then, we are
looking at the region of Donbas itself. And there, we target companies of the separatists or goods that are produced by those who are on the side of
the separatists and we make sure that it is impossible for them anymore to come to the European Union with those goods through the advantage of the
Free Trade Agreement we have with Ukraine.
So, it's targeting people, targeting banks, targeting the financing of the government and the financing of the separatists in Donbas.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you to confirm something, if you can? Your foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, has said that Russian troops have now entered
into Ukrainian territory. Can you confirm whether he means have new Russian units entered either of the separatist controlled areas in Eastern Ukraine?
VON DER LEYEN: So, what we have seen in the last hours is that there was movement of troops in the occupied areas where there already troops since
eight years. But, you know, important is if there is a clear invasion or incursion of Russia in Ukraine, the second massive package of sanctions is
ready to go. And this will be an enormous hit to Russia. It will completely cut off Russia from all financial markets. It will make sure that we have
export bans on goods that are essential for the modernization and diversification of the Russian economy. Russia needs it desperately. It has
an old and fossil fuel dependent economy.
These are goods where we are globally dominant and these are goods that cannot be easily replaced. In other words, not only will Russia pay a price
today, but an increasing price over the years. And again, it is President Putin who has to explain to his people why he is doing that to them.
AMANPOUR: Instead, his officials are gloating that one of the measures you have taken, in fact, Germany has taken is to halt the Nord Stream 2 gas
pipeline, that, you know, citizens all over Europe and United States are going to face massively high energy bills. What's your reaction to the Nord
Stream and how important is that for Russia, the fact that it's halted? How much of a harm do you think it can make?
VON DER LEYEN: So, thank you for putting forward this quote of the person who said this will result in massive increases of prices. This is complete
nonsense. Because today, not a single drop of gas is floating through Nord Stream 2. So, Nord Stream 2 is not even is certified. And this is the point
in the certification process, we have to assess whether Nord Stream 2 is contributing or dangerous for the energy purity of supply of energy for the
whole of Europe.
And the situation we see right now is very clear. The way gas from a state- owned company is dealing with the deliveries is telling during the whole summer, they have not stored as much as it would have been necessary for
this winter. They are at 10 years low. And they have delivered in their pipelines only at the lowest level of their contracts all the time, while
we have skyrocketing prices and an enormous demand. So, it's a very strange behavior for a company not to maximize their profits when it's the right
And the crucial part for Nord Stream 2 is, will it contribute to a better security of energy supply or will it be a risk for the energy security of
supply? And at the moment being, we see that the focus on Nord Stream 2 will increase our dependency of Russian gas. This is something we do not
So, I am very pessimistic what this certification process is concerned under this aspect. And there's a second point, we are too dependent on
Russian gas, without any question. After this winter, it is very clear for us, we have to diversify. We have to go to other suppliers. We have done
our homework with LNG terminals and pipelines all over Europe.
And the good part about the switch to LNG and other suppliers is, that this opens the window of opportunity to then use the infrastructure overtime for
gas or LNG gas to transport green hydrogen. So, it's a complete new perspective also for the global south, our neighbors in Africa, for
example, to develop green hydrogen and to use the infrastructure of the gas system to supply green hydrogen to Europe.
So, if anything is sure, this crisis has triggered the knowledge here in Europe that we have to get rid of the dependency of the Russian gas and we
have to invest, strategically invest in our independence and these other renewables.
AMANPOUR: Meantime, how concerned are you? You may have just listened to the Lithuanian foreign minister. They are very, very concerned about what
may happen in Belarus, certainly after the weekend referendum, whereby it's a vote on its neutrality and whether Russia takes basically takes over, you
know, the military situation there and moves nuclear weapons in.
Josep Borrell again said that if there is an invasion from Belarus, Belarus should actually face sanctions. And the Lithuanian foreign minister also
said there needs to be some severe movement to deter Belarus right now from acting as a vessel of President Putin's this this situation. What do you
think? You know, should sanctions be put on Belarus right now?
VON DER LEYEN: There are sanctions on Belarus already right now. And I think it is important to keep in mind the so-called Belarus crisis is just
three months away. So -- and it is important to see it in the whole picture of trying to destabilize the region of Russia's attempt to destabilize this
region because this Belarus crisis came rapidly out of the blue.
But a very good lesson to learn from that was we showed unity in the European Union, we acted swiftly and immediately. We were very rapid in our
actions, for example, to ban flights of migrants to Minsk, to Belarus, to speak to the countries of origin where the poor people who were trapped at
the border of Belarus, where the poor people came from so that these countries did help us to bring the migrants back home.
And this was a typical example that when we join forces, when we are united, as we are right now also in the Ukraine crisis, we can act really
swift and fast and with a lot of power and positive effect, because we mastered this crisis within three to four weeks.
AMANPOUR: You know, you used to be the defense minister in Germany, your country. And right now, we've heard from other countries, European, NATO --
Eastern European NATO countries, that, you know, there's concern there. Some have, you know, voiced concern that Putin may not stop at Ukraine. I
don't know your view of that is, whether you think that he knows that there is a red line or not. The Lithuanians don't think he knows that there's a
line. And what should be done to bolster them?
Even at a time when you have political differences with countries such as Poland and Hungary and how they do with the E.U. constitution.
VON DER LEYEN: I think we have proven in the last weeks that, yes, we might have internal domestic issues, but if there is a crisis like this, we
stand united, we are acting fast and powerful. As I said, it was in the Belarus crisis, it is in this crisis all part of the same big picture that
is developed by the Kremlin. And on one hand, on one topic, we can be absolutely reassuring.
For example, if you mention Lithuania or Latvia, Estonia, these are all members of the alliance. So, NATO allies. And within the alliance, one
thing is absolutely ironclad sure and this is the Article 5. So, if one square centimeter of NATO allies is attacked by an aggressor from outside,
all NATO allies will stand as one and defend this territory. This goes for our territory, very clearly. And I know that these frontline stats can
absolutely rely on that.
AMANPOUR: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, thank you so much indeed for joining us tonight.
And next, we go to Senator Chris Coons, one of President Biden's closest confidants. He is joining us from Warsaw. He's just been in Lithuania.
Welcome back to the program, Senator Coons. If you can hear me and if you're still there. There you are.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Yes, I can hear you, Christiane. Thank you so much for the chance to be on.
AMANPOUR: Good to see you. And we know you have had some, you know, travel issues throughout our hours. So, we're very happy that you have managed to
stand in front of a camera somewhere.
So, let me start by asking you because I think it's critical to ask at this point, like I asked all my other guests. Is what Putin has done overnight
and continuing to do today an invasion of Ukraine or indeed a reinvasion?
COONS: Yes. Christiane, this is the violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territory that I think justifies, in fact, requires forceful united action
by the West. I'm grateful for the swift response by some of our closest allies. Chancellor Shultz announcing the freezing of the Nord Stream 2
pipeline. Prime Minister Bores Johnson announcing banking sanctions in an effort to deliver more targeted sanctions against oligarchs.
And I think we're in this strong position as an alliance. NATO, E.U., the United States because of President Biden's leadership. He's been focusing
us on this challenge for months now and did everything he possibly could with our allies to deter Putin. Putin has nonetheless barreled ahead. His
grievance-filled, frankly, unhinged speech about the lack of historical basis for Ukraine, his pronouncements about the threats that Russia faces
from NATO and Ukraine utterly without foundation seem to me a clear signal that we need to move forward in a united way to vigorously support Ukraine
and to impose strong sanctions.
AMANPOUR: And are you satisfied with what' going to come out from the White House presumably today? What do you think they are saying and what do
you think should happen in terms of the severity of the sanctions right now, at this stage?
COONS: Well, Christiane, I have been in the air for the last two hours. I was flying from Warsaw to Vilnius. We were not able to land due to snow and
wind and just had to come back.
COONS: I know that President Biden is speaking relatively soon, and there will be more sanctions developed and announced, but I don't know the
details at this moment. I do think that what President Biden and his team have been doing overnight was to both closely consult with allies. It's
something he and his team have done a terrific job in the runup to this moment. They have consulted very closely with our allies and to prepare a
series of graduated sanctions.
The first executive order President Biden signed was directly related to these so-called independent people's republics at Donetsk and Luhansk and
imposing sanctions on anyone doing business with them. I expect we will soon see a broader range of sanctions from the United States, but closely
coordinated with our vital European allies.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you, because, again, you know, nobody quite knows what Putin is going to do? What people are certain of is that he will keep doing
it until stopped. So, whatever you do has to stop him. And he has already indicated, and as you described, that, frankly, unhinged rambling speech on
Monday night, he has already indicated that those two bits of Eastern Ukraine, which is not the whole of that, you know -- you know, that region,
but those rebel-held ones there, may not be -- you know, may not be the red line. So, let's just play what he said last night about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Russia will be held accountable if it invades. And it depends on what it does. It's one thing if it's a minor incursion
and then, we end up having to fight about what to do and not do, et cetera. But if they actually do what they are capable of doing with the force
amassed on the border, it is going to be a disaster for --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: That was President Biden doing exactly what you said he was going to do and should have done. But Putin indicated that, you know, it's
up to Kyiv to demilitarize. And he said --- and he made these crazy accusations about how they were trying to build nuclear weapons or -- and
then, today, he said that they must, the only way to deescalate this is that they must say no to any NATO aspirations. What is your answer to that?
COONS: Well, Christiane, we were both in Munich. I saw your very able interview with President Zelenskyy. President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian
people get to decide whether or not they are going to pursue NATO membership. We should not be closing the door on NATO membership for
Ukraine because of threats, because of bullying by Russia. And I think there's been plenty of opportunities for the Ukrainians and their
leadership to communicate with Putin, with other allies in the West. And frankly, I think we should keep the door open.
There are other nations that because of Russia's bullying are eager to confirm that the door is still open to NATO membership. And so, frankly, I
think at the end of the day, there is an opening here. There is a possibility for diplomatic off ramp that's been offered repeatedly by
Secretary Blinken, by President Biden and other European leaders to negotiate transparency or arms control or to address some of the issues
that have been raised by Putin around his concerns about missiles maybe being placed in Ukraine.
But his broader range of, frankly, absurd demands that NATO be pulled back to its borders from the '90s, that we prevent Ukraine from ever joining
NATO and essentially, Finlandize NATO. I don't think those are reasonable demands and I, in particular, don't think that we should negotiate about
that at the barrel of gun with Russian troops newly occupying additional territory within Ukraine.
This has been a slow rolling crisis since 2014, and you just said something, Christiane, that I'm going to agree with, Putin will only stop
when we, the West stop him. This is a crisis moment for NATO. We need to show that we can be united and strong in the face Russian aggression.
AMANPOUR: And figure out a way to get him to listen. Because I wonder whether you think, given what you just said about, you know, negotiating at
the end of a, you know, barrel of a gun, and I know diplomacy is something that one should keep trying to practice. Do you believe right now that
Secretary of State Antony Blinken should keep his rendezvous with Sergey Lavrov in Geneva? As they said, we don't -- so far, they haven't called it
off. Do you think it should happen?
COONS: Well, look, I don't have the latest information about whether had Russian troops are actually occupying more of Ukraine. I think he should
keep the door open if there is a commitment to reverse the actions taken by Putin. If Russian troops are not going to proceed to occupy territory of
Ukraine further beyond what's already been annexed from Crimea.
But I will remind you, Putin has done another significant and aggressive thing that I was going to be meeting with leaders in Lithuania tonight and
tomorrow to discuss, by putting 30,000 troops into Belarus by further expanding Russian military capabilities into Belarusian territory, that was
something he's accomplished without a single shot that I think compromises the sovereignty and the independence of the Belarusian people.
One of the folks we got to talk with in Munich was Sviatlana Tsihanouskaya, excuse me, who is the opposition leader, the person who I think speaks for
the Belarusian people. So, frankly, one of our challenges here is trying to find a reasonable pathway for negotiation with someone who has demonstrated
over and over in Georgia, in Moldova, in Belarus, in Ukraine an inclination, a capability and an orientation towards continued aggression
against his neighbors.
AMANPOUR: And finally, because my previous guest tonight all talked about what would happen if Putin has even, you know, larger ambitions than just
Ukraine and he threatened any NATO country, and you just may have heard Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission saying, if
he takes -- if any foreign military takes so much as one centimeter of a NATO country, Article 5 will be triggered. Are you a thousand percent
convince convinced of that? Does he know that?
COONS: Yes. Christiane, earlier today along with two of my colleagues from the Senate, Senators Durbin and Shaheen, I visited American and Polish
troops at an air base, the Lask Air Base here in Poland, where there are F- 15s being flown by American pilots and F-16s being flown by Polish pilots. We have joint deployments by all of our major NATO partners. We have
reenforced the eastern flank of NATO. President Biden has led that by deploying 5,000 more troops.
And I think we will soon see additional efforts in the Senate to fund support for our NATO allies. One of the things President Biden has been
clear about over and over in these recent weeks and months is that our Article 5 commitment to all of our allies is absolutely invaluable. And
that's one of the moments that, I think, is most important for Putin to see and to hear the determination from Ursula von der Leyen, from other NATO
national leaders and from the United States, from our president in a bipartisan and united way by members of Congress and our national public,
we are determined to defend NATO in the face of Russian aggression.
AMANPOUR: Senator Chris Coons, thank you so much indeed for joining us.
COONS: Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: And finally, tonight, in an impassioned plea against colonialism and dreams of empire anywhere in the world, Kenya's U.N. ambassador
directed a message at Russia during the emergency overnight Security Council summit or rather meeting in New York.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN KIMANI, KENYAN AMABASSADOR TO THE U.N.: We must complete our recovery from the embers of dead empires in a way that does not plunge us
back into new forms of domination and oppression. We rejected irredentism and expansionism on any basis, including racial, ethnic, religious or
cultural factors. We rejected again today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And Russia is president of the Security Council this month.
That is it for our show. If you ever miss our show, you can find the latest episode shortly after it airs on our podcast. You can find it at
cnn.com/podcast and on all major platforms, just search for Amanpour or scan the QR code on your screens now.
Remember, you can always catch us online as well. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.