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Interview With Former Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite; Interview With Former CIA Director David Petraeus; Interview with Hermitage Capital Management Bill Browder; Interview with Former Campaign adviser to Emmanuel Macron Francois Heisbourg. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired February 28, 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: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I hereby order the minister of defense and the chief the general staff to place the Russian
army deterrence force on combat alert.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Vladimir Putin hangs a nuclear sword of Damocles over Europe and over talks with Ukraine, while Ukrainian forces continue to
slow Russia's advance.
Former CENTCOM Commander and CIA Director General David Petraeus assesses the battlefield day five.
DALIA GRYBAUSKAITE, FORMER LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT: We thought that freedom is forever and independence is forever, but it looks that, every day, we
need to fight for it.
AMANPOUR: Those words proved to be prophetic. Living under the threat of Russian aggression, I speak with former Lithuanian President Dalia
BILL BROWDER, CEO, HERMITAGE CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: We're trying to make a direct statement of Vladimir Putin and go after his own personal interests.
That's the one that really stings.
AMANPOUR: Tightening the economic noose on the Kremlin. Sanctions expert Bill Browder walks Walter Isaacson through the plunging ruble.
Also, former adviser to President Macron Francois Heisbourg on how Europe and most of the world pulled together this time against Putin.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in Paris, where President Macron has again called Vladimir Putin and demanded
an immediate cease-fire and for him to stop targeting civilian infrastructure.
He also spoke to President Zelensky, as Ukraine holds off Russian forces for a fifth day. As massive E.U. and U.S. sanctions tear into Russia's
economy and send the ruble plunging, delegations from Moscow and Kyiv, mad at the Belarus border.
There's little hope, though, that fighting will end anytime soon, even though Putin's war does not seem to be going as far and as fast as planned.
Here's correspondent Matthew Chance reporting from Kyiv early today on fierce Ukrainian resistance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right within the past few hours, there has been a ferocious battle here on the outskirts of
And this is one of those Russian Soviet era vehicles which is completely burned out.
You can see this is a bridge, actually is an access point to the northwest of Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital. And the Russian column that has come down
here has been absolutely hammered.
Actually, I was crouching down right by a grenade there, look, and I didn't see that. So let's move away from that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, on Sunday, Putin did the unthinkable, putting his nuclear deterrent forces on high alert.
David Petraeus was commander of U.S. Central Command and director of the CIA. As a U.S. Army general, he led the 101st Airborne Division in the 2003
Iraq invasion. And he's joining me now from Arlington, Virginia.
General Petraeus, welcome to the program.
I guess you, more than anyone we could talk to, gets the lay of the land, what we're seeing right now, but I need to ask you, how shocking was it for
you to hear Putin make that order to those two defense officials sitting at the other end of that massively long table yesterday?
DAVID PETRAEUS, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well, it was chilling, Christiane.
And great to be with you.
That's a real threat, a veiled threat. It's something that needs to be taken seriously. There need to be certainly preparations, at the very
least, without trying to get into a bidding war with him. This isn't a poker match where we need to see him and raise him one DEFCON level or
something like that.
But, again, the idea that he would mention that now, and that he would publicly order that, as he did, again, also indicates a little bit of the
state of mind in the Kremlin.
AMANPOUR: Well, so what is the state of mind? And what exactly does that mean, militarily, putting this force, this deterrent force, as he called
it, on -- I think he even used the word combat alert? What does it actually mean?
PETRAEUS: Well, a higher state of readiness is really what it means.
And, again, we have these as well, different states of readiness. I think, in this case, at that first level, this is quite symbolic, but it's
seriously symbolic. Those forces, as are ours, are always ready. But, in this case, they have made them a bit more ready.
But he's chosen do it publicly. And that is what is so shocking and really quite chilling in this case.
AMANPOUR: General Petraeus, do you think he's doing that because he's just shocked and stunned by what's happening on the battlefield?
PETRAEUS: Well, he has to be extremely displeased with it.
And I wonder, in fact, if people have really, truly acquainted with him with how badly this is going. In truth, it's going terribly for him, I
think, across the board. At the strategic level, he has essentially united most of the rest of the world, the U.S., NATO, the E.U., many other
countries not part of those organizations.
To have Germany over the weekend committed 100 billion euros in a one-time supplemental for defense, put Nord Stream 2 certification on hold, provide
lethal weapons to Ukraine, keeping in mind that the first contribution they made was Kevlar helmets, and to commit to immediately spending 2 percent of
GDP on defense, when they weren't even at 1.5 percent of GDP, is extraordinary, really very, very significant.
And then, on the battlefield, it's going terribly. They have a flawed operational concept, proceeding along seven different axes of advanced, not
weighting the main effort on Kyiv, where, of course, the main objective is just to topple President Zelensky and his government, and to replace it
with one that is pro-Russian.
They haven't achieved air-ground integration. They haven't employed their cyber capabilities all that effectively. They're not performing adequate
logistics. And they haven't even achieved combined arms, in other words, infantry, armor, and artillery all together. And they're facing a citizenry
that universally hates them with forces that are fighting on their homeland, home field advantage, know the terrain and the people, and the
citizens themselves, many of them volunteering to fight the Russians.
So, you noted that I was part of an invasion force when I was a two-star general. I can't imagine going into a country where everyone, again, wants
to take up arms against you, as opposed to being applauded, as we were at the beginning. I mean, we were seen as an army of liberation at the
beginning in Iraq, because no one loved Saddam Hussein. They hated him.
Now, of course, an army of liberation can become an army of occupation pretty quickly if you don't watch out, and we learned some tough lessons
But I cannot imagine a more difficult situation for the Russians on the ground. They're now going to be joined by the Belarusians, who are less
competent even though they are, noting that, again, the Russian performance has been truly underwhelming, and the Ukrainian performance has been
And here I should also note just the incredible leadership of President Zelensky. As you will recall, he was a comedian playing the president on
television. He got elected president. No one really knew what to expect. And here he is providing enormous energy, example, inspiration, and very
competent leadership, despite being target number one and his family target number two.
AMANPOUR: Yes, it is remarkable, really remarkable that he's so risen to this hour and to this moment, and that the people are doing this incredible
patriotic duty. It's really something to watch, even from afar.
I want to get back though, to what they're doing to stop these armored columns. I mean, whatever they are, they still have hardware. And they
could I guess, use it, if they could. And, instead, we saw what Matthew Chance reported from I think it was west of Kyiv, a whole column destroyed.
And here's our Fred Pleitgen, correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, who's on the Russian border, looking at the armor and some of the destruction even at
that point. Let's just play it and talk about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we have seen today and we have seen over the past couple of days is a lot of broken-down Russian military
gear as well.
We saw a broken-down Uragan rocket launcher also on the side of the street as we were driving around this area here. And we even saw a howitzer that
seemed to be stuck in a ditch, somewhat rolled over. No idea how that happened.
But that really is almost the pattern of what we're seeing, of Russian military gear that seems to be breaking down on this side of the border.
Again, unclear whether or not that's something that's sort of the common attrition that you might have in the military offensive of the size, but
it's certainly something that we have taken note of.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, General Petraeus, again, how does that happen?
We had been treated to all these public declassified intelligence from the United States who had seen all this buildup on the borders. I guess they
didn't know whether they had enough food or fuel. But how does this happen? How does a military send in what appears to be unprepared forces?
PETRAEUS: Well, again, it shouldn't be a total surprise.
Some, not all, by any means -- in fact, the closer to the front lines you get, the more professional they tend to be, but some are conscripts. By the
way, they're only in there for a year. And their tour of duty was going to be up in April. President Putin has already extended that and called the
next conscripts on early.
But, look, maintenance is hard. It takes a whole logistical supply chain. You have to have spare parts. You have to have mechanics. You have to have
time to actually do it. They have been driving these track vehicles, which do require enormous maintenance, very, very hard.
You really want to take them on lowboys as far as you can take them and then put them off. So again, this is not surprising. You have this just in
any normal movement of armored vehicles, and you have to be prepared for it. And you actually have to plan for it, so that you have time so that you
can make whatever mechanical adjustments and repairs are necessary along the way.
But if you're going into a country where everyone is taking up arms against you, just about, how do you ever have any kind of security to do this? How
do you even sleep at night? Again, eventually, you have to sleep. These guys, they have gone for days now. They will be at the point of exhaustion,
where you literally fall asleep standing up at times.
I -- we reached that point during the invasion of Iraq. There was a point where you had to actually deliberately say, you got to go down. This is why
they created a number two in command and so forth.
So they're at the -- at the -- they have stretched beyond their logistical and mechanical capabilities. And you're seeing the results of that. They
have never -- the Russians have not faced a determined, reasonably competent, reasonably well-equipped force in the past.
You think about what they did the Georgians, where the Georgians did ultimately put up good resistance, but, again, nothing like what the
Ukrainians have. Syria, they basically bombed Aleppo. They destroyed it. Grozny, they destroyed in the war in Chechnya. And they occupied Crimea and
push separatists into the Donbass.
This is a totally different endeavor. And they have not shown the kind of professional competence that I think people expected of them. And the
Ukrainians have stepped up in a truly admirable and hugely impressive manner.
AMANPOUR: So what happens if again -- to Putin's state of mind, to what he might tell his military, what happens if he decides to go, as you
mentioned, full Grozny, full Aleppo, which means air and artillery on civilian targets and just bombing the hell out of them?
PETRAEUS: Well, he is starting to do that.
And I fear that we will see more of that, Christiane. They have started to use these cluster bomb munitions, which should never be used around
civilian forces. They are bringing in the thermobaric munitions that can be launched on rockets that literally suck the oxygen out of a space, out of a
room or out of a lung of someone who is unfortunate enough to be where it explodes.
They will rubble some cities, I suspect, because they -- in some ways, they almost have to depopulate areas, or they are not secure in them. And,
again, we have seen them do this in the past. The problem is that this is a country of nearly 40 million people, the size of Texas, vast distances.
And I said before this before, before we have actually seen the relative level of incompetence on the Russian side and heroism on the side of the
Ukrainian forces, partisans and citizens, that there's no way 190,000 could occupy even part of the country.
Again, you can force your way into something, but can you secure it? The answer is no. In fact, they had to withdraw, as you saw from Kharkiv, in
just a small portion that they had actually been able to get into in that location.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Yes. And, as you say, there are reports from Kharkiv of cluster munitions being used. It's very, very worrying.
AMANPOUR: Who do you think owns the skies now? And how do you think all these anti-tank weapons will immediately be supplied to the Ukrainian
forces? Because that will make a huge difference, but they need to get in there quickly.
PETRAEUS: Well, it is making a huge difference already.
You have seen -- we have seen videos of Javelins on the battlefield. They're a very effective -- they're a fire-and-forget weapon, not like the
one that you will recall when you were out in Europe back in the days of the Cold War and immediately afterwards. It's a wire-guided and you have to
keep the crosshair on the target, even though as a big plume of smoke went up behind you and the enemy knows it's coming at them very slowly.
The Javelin, it acquires it, you launch it, you drop it, run, and it will go up to 2,500 meters, and then attack from the top. So it's very, very
lethal. They have been using it. They have had these now for quite some time.
And the U.S. delivered dozens of wide-body cargo military aircraft, C-17s, with these, among a variety of others, Stingers. The MANPAD, man-portable
air defense systems, have been taking down Russian helicopters and planes.
When it comes to the air, surprisingly, here again, the Russians have not completely shut down or completely denied the use of airfields to Ukraine.
The Ukrainians still have some aircraft that are able to fly a bit. They have done some damage. More importantly, the Russians have not used that
air supremacy at all the way that one would have expected they would.
And they certainly haven't been able to integrate it together with the ground maneuver operations, where they are, in a sense, paving the way for
what it is they're trying to do on the ground.
PETRAEUS: So that's the situation there as well, and, again, nor have they made the effective use that we feared of cyber offensive capabilities,
although they did do some attacks early on.
AMANPOUR: General Petraeus, thank you so much with that expert analysis there. Thank you very much, from your experience, of course.
Now, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba laid out Ukraine's determination to withstand Russia's attack on Facebook today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DMYTRO KULEBA, UKRAINIAN MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS (through translator): Like the Nazis didn't recognize the Jews' right to exist, Vladimir Putin
doesn't recognize the right of Ukrainians to exist in the framework of their own identity, their culture, their state. We will not surrender. For
us, it is a matter of survival.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, people in Lithuania can understand Ukraine's resistance, having lived in the shadow of Russian aggression since winning independence
from the Soviet Union back in 1991.
Several thousand Lithuanian women have been protesting at the Russian Embassy, this was this weekend, calling out to the mothers of Russian
soldiers to rise up and stop that war in Ukraine.
Dalia Grybauskaite was president of Lithuania for 10 years, including during Putin's first Ukraine invasion. And she's joining me now from the
Madam President, thank you for coming back to the program.
I wonder just your initial reaction to what's happening and to the defense and the resistance that Ukraine is putting up.
GRYBAUSKAITE: Not surprised, painful, but very, very much we're full- hearted reaction towards Ukrainian capabilities to defend their country.
And we are, in Europe, all of us very proud of them, and why it is our duty to support in everything as much as we can. And these five days, Europe
started to -- became up to the challenge, but very slowly, and not immediately.
And that's -- even these efforts are not enough.
AMANPOUR: Even now, you say the efforts are not enough, although so much greater than in the past and so much more unity and determination than in
the past. And we will get into that in a second.
But I want to know what you feel, as a Lithuanian and certainly former president, now that this -- your southern neighbor, Belarus, has gone
Russian, so to speak. It had that referendum. It's abandoned its neutrality. It's potentially going to reverse its non-nuclear status. And
it's right there on the border of the three Baltic states.
What do you think might be the situation unfolding on your borders?
GRYBAUSKAITE: It is very clear that the battle in Ukraine, it is a battle for us also, for Europe, and it is already war of all Europe.
And if we will be not able to stop Putin and Lukashenko together, because they are already together, in Ukraine, they will be on our borders, and
they will start offensive. And that's very clear from what Putin was saying and how he is behaving. For him, people's lives, human lives are not
He's leaving his soldiers, dead soldiers behind on the roadsides. For him, any life is not important. So, we are facing bloodshed. And we probably
will be facing bloodshed, if we will be not able to stop him in Ukraine.
AMANPOUR: Madam President, you must have met him several times.
AMANPOUR: What do you make of the way he's behaving right now?
Once. OK, once.
What do you make the way he's behaving,and particularly having put the deterrent forces on high alert yesterday?
GRYBAUSKAITE: I think his mind, mental situation is deteriorating. And during these 12 years, what I was capable to watch him from my position,
the deterioration and madness really is increasing.
And it is clear that he lives in some kind of paranoid bubble, and not only him alone, but the Kremlin lives in paranoid bumble. And this is dangerous
for all of us, not only in Europe, but around the world. And these five years was -- five days for us all was a waking call. And we are learning
But, as I said, it's not enough, and still the sanctions with loopholes. We still need to do a lot more, and we need to be ready to fight him, to fight
him on the ground, because sanctions will not stop the war criminal. Sanctions will only harm them.
But only on the battlefield, we can stop the war criminals.
AMANPOUR: So, as you know, the -- NATO have all said that one square centimeter of NATO territory, if one Russian soldier steps across, they
will, the 30 of those NATO countries, do what they have to do to stop it.
Are you confident in that?
GRYBAUSKAITE: You know, today, it is not so much important what will happen tomorrow.
Today, we need to help Ukraine to battle and to survive, because, after Ukraine, it will be very difficult to fight the battle on our own soil, and
it will be too late for Europe probably. What is important today is to help Ukraine in everything, not only weaponry, but, if it will be necessary, if
we will see what starting to already -- starting to be seen, that he will go for bloodshed, we will need to think about boots on the ground or boots
in the air.
AMANPOUR: Some have said that, if he's successful in Ukraine, and with the arrival of Belarus into the Russian sphere now, that a sort of new Iron
Curtain or a new Berlin Wall will have descended and a whole new Cold War.
And you, the Baltic states, will be that most vulnerable front line. In other words, the whole European security structure will change. Is that the
case? And how do you see the worst-case scenario?
GRYBAUSKAITE: This -- if there will be a new Cold War, it will be not the worst-case scenario. The worst-case scenario will be the hot war.
AMANPOUR: Do you think that -- do you approve -- do you support President Zelensky calling to be immediately included into the E.U., and today
signing that request?
Do you think that's useful for him to do right now?
GRYBAUSKAITE: You know, the situation the ground in Ukraine is such that we need to help to support Ukrainians, not only militarily, humanitarian
point of view, with food, with supplies, but also morally.
And this is one of the possibility for Europe to come up to this request, because Ukraine is battling its membership in European Union every minute
on the field of battle, every minute.
AMANPOUR: How do you think that they should be bolstered? I mean, you have heard -- you have seen -- I mean, you obviously know what the Russians --
sorry -- what the Germans have done, done an about-turn on their defense spending, and they're sending lethal weaponry.
You have seen what the E.U.'s been doing. How do you -- how -- can you see how they can get it to them in good time and how this help will make a
GRYBAUSKAITE: This is making a difference. It will help, but it's not enough.
If we will be not able to stop him only because of supplying the supplies, we will need to seriously reconsider our involvement into the war.
AMANPOUR: So, what do you mean? I mean, look, I -- we have been dancing around this for the last five minutes, because we all know that NATO has
said that it's not going to put any troops on the ground in Ukraine. It's not going to put aircraft in the air to fight down the Russian aircraft. It
is not going to start a world war over Ukraine.
So what do you mean and how do you mean fighting and stopping Putin? What is a way to do that?
GRYBAUSKAITE: I would like to make a historic example.
1940, Lithuania accepted the ultimatum from Russia to allow enter the Russian troops on our territory and not to fight them back. And we got the
war and occupation for 50 years.
So, if we refer to today's situation, if the war is inevitable, let's not push the can on the road. Better to take it as soon as possible, and not to
push and wait.
Anyway, if it is inevitable, and we are not able to stop Putin in Ukraine, he will come to our borders.
AMANPOUR: Madam President, thank you so much indeed for joining us this evening.
Now, unprecedented sanctions have sent the Russian ruble tumbling. The United States has cut Russia's Central Bank off from its $630 billion so-
called sanctions-proof war chest.
Dubbed Putin's number one enemy, Bill Browder is the CEO of Hermitage Capital and the architect behind the Magnitsky Act, which President Biden
has used to sanction Vladimir Putin and his oligarch cronies.
Browder sat down with Walter Isaacson to discuss the effect of cutting him off from his own wealth.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Christiane.
And, Bill Browder, welcome to the show.
BROWDER: Great to be here.
ISAACSON: You were the largest, at one point, financial investor, foreign financial investor in Russia.
What will these sanctions mean to the Russian economy? And what things can we expect?
BROWDER: Well, there's a whole range of sanctions, from sanctioning the Central Bank, to the -- to a number of state enterprises, right up to the
So, the -- in terms of what affects Putin the most, it's not necessarily the ones that do the most damage to the economy. What affects Putin the
most is the ones that does damage to the oligarchs, these multibillionaire individuals that we see on the "Forbes" list and the ones sailing around in
And the reason that Putin cares about that most is because they hold his money for him. And so if we're trying to make a direct statement to
Vladimir Putin, and go after his own personal interests, that's the one that really stings him.
ISAACSON: Can we seize their yachts or their apartments where you are in London?
And now, after what Putin has done with Ukraine, that is the plan. I'm actually calling in from the British Parliament right now, where I have
spent the morning discussing specifics on how to go about doing that. And there's now appetite to do that for the first time in 20 years. The British
are going to seize oligarch assets.
And I think the Europeans will and the Americans will, and this is a total game-changer when it comes to affecting Vladimir Putin's calculations.
ISAACSON: Well, you're coming to us from right in the heart of the Parliament.
Tell me what you have done this morning, who you have met with and what ideas you're pushing?
BROWDER: Well, so the most important one is that the list of oligarchs needs to be long, and it needs to be coordinated.
So, for example, there are oligarchs who have already been sanctioned by the United States, even four years ago, that aren't on the British
sanctions list. That makes no sense. Second, the list of oligarchs by all the countries is still fairly short. There's a number of people who are
supporters of the regime, who are trustees of Putin's money, who are enormously wealthy who we can go after, and those names need to be added to
And then the last thing which I have been discussing -- and this is really important -- is that the governments can't go after the assets if they
don't know where they are. And there's a lot of people working in the city of London and working in banks in New York and other places that had been
involved in hiding the assets for the oligarchs.
And so there should be amendments to the sanctions law which requires all of the Western enablers to come forward with information about the Russian
oligarchs who they're looking after. And that should be put into the law. There should be penalties, including prison for those people, if they don't
come forward with that information to the government.
ISAACSON: The Central Bank of Russia has stopped trading on the ruble today, but it seems like it's now down to being worth about one U.S. penny.
What affect will that have? Is that something good and we should keep pushing?
BROWDER: Well, you know, it's one of these things where we wouldn't have had to do that if we had been tougher leading up to the invasion. We could
have stopped this invasion by all work together, all going after on a narrow basis, Putin's interests, but we're now in a situation where
Vladimir Putin has declared major war in Europe and everything has to be thrown at him, everything.
And we have sanctioned SWIFT., in other words, unplugged a number of Russian financial institutions from the main information connecting
network, but we have only done it for 70 percent of Russian banks. And so, what's going to happen very quickly is that the Russians will modify all
their payments to go through the other 30 percent of the banks. And so, that needs to be fixed. That needs to be upgraded so all Russian financial
institutions can no longer transfer money in and out of the country. I mean, it's painful for their average Russian. Vladimir Putin is not eating
less well because of that.
ISAACSON: Explain to me why we've cut off 70 percent of Russian banks from the International Banking System and its messaging system but we've left 30
percent there? Was there a reason and why don't we just say 100 percent?
BROWDER: Well, I would like to be able to explain it to you because I can't because I wasn't in these smoke-filled back rooms where dirty deals
were being done and people were making compromises on behalf of interests that we don't know about. But I can guarantee there were people out there
from different countries saying, this will affect my economic interests, don't do it. And in doing so, they're effectively trading their economic
interests for the national security of the world, national security of Europe, the United States and the U.K.
ISAACSON: What should we be doing with gas from the Russian energy company that's mainly (INAUDIBLE)?
BROWDER: Well, basically for every European household that's heating their house with Russian gas, we're paying money to the Russians for their war
machine to invade neighboring countries. And so, we shouldn't be doing that. And unfortunately, it's not something that you can just change
overnight. This should have been dealt with a long time ago. It perplexes me why Germany has become more dependent on Russian gas over the last 10
years then less dependent.
Russia has been using gas as a weapon for a long time. And certainly, gas is the main way in which they fund their illegitimate activities. And so,
going forward, I think there needs to be a major rethink of how Europe gets their gas and they need to find ways, including ways of having to pay more
so that they're not dependent and not funding Russia.
ISAACSON: Does that mean we should be exporting and producing more gas and oil and that sort of goes against the climate plans of President Biden?
But should we temporarily open our strategic reserves, allow more production of oil and gas, ask the Saudis to do the same?
BROWDER: Well, I think we're in an emergency situation. It's -- I, you know, fully support all the initiatives to reduce carbon emissions. But at
the same time, if Vladimir Putin starts a nuclear war, we're not going to be around on the planet to enjoy a cleaner planet. And so, we have to make
compromises, at least, in the short-term. And that would require building LNG terminals in Europe. That would require U.S. assisting Europe in
becoming less dependent on Russian gas. It would require Qatar and Saudi Arabia and other countries who aren't causing these problems to cooperate
as well. There needs to be a major rethink.
And Germany just announced that in the last couple days that they're going to do that. It's an extremely important part of not funding Vladimir Putin
and not being dependent on Vladimir Putin.
ISAACSON: You just off handedly said if Russia starts a nuclear war, was that just a figure of speech or do you worry that him bringing the troops
up to a new nuclear alert means that this could possibly escalate to being a nuclear attack by the Russians?
BROWDER: Well, sadly and scarily, I know Vladimir Putin very well. I've been involved in a conflict with him, a very heated conflict over the last
decade. And what I learned about Vladimir Putin is that he never backs down. He can never show weakness. He always escalates. And he's not
interested in the national interest of Russia. He's only interested in staying in power. And he'll pretty much do anything if he can stay in
And so, I don't think anything is off the table with Vladimir Putin as we saw in the last 24 hours when he, all of a sudden, because of financial
sanctions he's now ratcheting up and using nuclear jargon.
ISAACSON: Your decade-long dispute with Vladimir Putin involved when you were the largest foreign investor in Russia, trying to expose corruption,
and you did. You showed the corruption both of Putin and the oligarchs and that meant that not only did you have to leave the country, but your lawyer
was tortured and killed. What did you learn about the corruption and what did you learn about Vladimir Putin?
BROWDER: So, we were exposing corruption in gas prom and other companies that I was invested in. I was expelled and declared a threat to national
security for exposing corruption in state companies which they should have been happy to try to get rid of that corruption.
After I was expelled, my lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, discovered major $230 million government corruption scheme. He reported it, testified against the
officials involved and in retaliation, when he was arrested, tortured for 358 days in Russian custody and killed 12 years ago. And what one could
have -- he should have been declared a hero for exposing the corruption, instead, Vladimir Putin put him on trial three years after killing him in
the first in the first -- and convicted him in the first-ever post hue mouse trial in the history of Russia, first time the Russia ever has
convicted a dead man.
And what it shows is that Vladimir Putin is a criminal. He's a guy who is interested in protecting the ill-gotten gains of himself and the people
around him. He will kill to protect those ill-gotten gains and everything about his narrative that he's a patriot and that he's looking after the
interest of Russia are exposed as being false and a lie just based on the story of me and my lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky.
ISAACSON: So, tell me about the root causes of what he has just done by invading Ukraine. To what extent is it that he wants to keep NATO off of
his border, as he said, to what extent does he just hate liberal, western- style democracies flourishing and to what extent is it simply to protect his place in power and the money that he's stolen?
BROWDER: Well, from my detailed knowledge of this man, it's all about him staying in power. So, Vladimir Putin has been there for 22 years. In his 22
years, he's stolen an enormous amount of money, I would guess $200 billion. Maybe more at this point. He's stolen that money by killing people, taking
people hostage, doing all sorts of terrible things. And that money should have gone to paying for roads, hospitals and other public services.
So, after 20 years, people are tired of him. And he sees the writing on the wall. In Belarus, 18 months ago, the people rose up against Lukashenko and
wanted to replace him after fraudulent election and it was only because Putin sent troops in that they ended up getting -- that Lukashenko is still
Is Kazakhstan, just at the beginning of this year, there was a major effective coup where they got rid of Nazarbayev family. And so, Putin saw
this and he thought, this is coming for me. This is going to happen to me if I don't do something dramatic. And so, what do you do if you're a
dictator, you need to stay in power in order to stay alive and you believe your time is almost up, you start a war. You deflect whatever anger people
might have towards you towards a foreign enemy.
And so, I don't believe any of the rhetoric that Vladimir Putin has said about NATO, about the Ukrainians about the Nazis, it's all made up. It's
all made up for the purpose of justifying a war and he needs the war to stay in power.
ISAACSON: To what extent do you think he's vulnerable? What is it that could topple him? The oligarchs, rising up in the streets or nothing?
BROWDER: Well, I think that his biggest vulnerability is that he's stolen all this money over the last 20 years. He keeps the money with oligarchs in
the West. And that's his Achilles heel because we have access to freeze that money. And I've been screaming from the rooftops for the last month
that we should go after the oligarchs' money because that's what Putin cares about. It's his money. And he values money more than human life.
And it's very interesting because the moment we started talking seriously about going after oligarchs, he's threatening nuclear war, not that he's
going to follow through on that today, but it shows you how much he values that, how upset he is by that. And that's our one bit of leverage. I don't
think that at this point freezing those assets is going to stop him in Ukraine. But what I do think is that all of a sudden, the calculus changes.
On one hand he has the reward of staying in power. On the other hand, all his money is effectively inaccessible. And we're now in the game of trying
to make it as costly as possible for him to do these terrible things that he's doing. And we should absolutely go after the thing that he values
most, which is his money and by doing that going after the oligarchs.
ISAACSON: But hasn't Putin already factored sanctions into his plans?
BROWDER: There's no way that he can factor the sanctions of his own money and the oligarchs because they're so fully entrenched, they're so fully
invested in the West. Now, you have to understand, as an oligarch, looking after Putin's money and looking after their own money, they don't want to
keep that money in China or Saudi Arabia or Nigeria, they want to keep it in a rule of law country. They want to keep it in New York, in London, in
the South of France.
And so, sure, there probably have been some preventive measures that they have taken knowing that sanctions are coming down the road, but, you know,
I can point out, you know, 15 houses in London that are worth a lot of money that they can't move that are owned by Russian oligarchs that could
be frozen today.
ISAACSON: So, you're in parliament right now discussing possible things. Have you pointed out the homes in London that the oligarchs own? And is
there something that the British government could do?
BROWDER: I have. But more importantly, I asked them -- there's a piece of legislation coming through called the Economic Crimes Bill, which is
happening imminently. And I told the government and members of parliament that there needs to be a provision in the Economic Crimes Bill that also
includes the Western enablers of the oligarchs, all the bankers, accountants, lawyers, trustees so that they are required to come forward
with information on where the oligarch's assets are.
Because some of these things are obvious and some of them are hidden. And all this stuff should be available to the government so that those assets
can be frozen and seized.
ISAACSON: Today, the United States announced it was cutting off Russia's central bank. What impact does that have?
BROWDER: Well, that has a very dramatic impact. If you cut off the central bank, then effectively, they have no access to whatever dollars they have
on their reserves and the European Union has done the same thing. And what this means is that even though Vladimir Putin has accumulated $640 billion
of central bank reserves, that money is effectively inaccessible. So, they can't use it to fund their war effort and they can't use it to support the
ruble as it goes into a free fall as a result of the SWIFT sanctions.
And so, it's a very powerful tool. Very blunt instrument, but a very required tool based on the fact that what Putin has done by invading
ISAACSON: And in response, a Russian central bank has raised its basic interest rate from about 9.5 percent to 20 percent. What does that do to
the oligarchs? What does that do to the average Russians? And for that matter, for people trying to take the money and flee the country?
BROWDER: Well, when a government raises interest rates like that, what they're trying to do is prevent people from converting their currency to a
foreign currency by saying, it's more attractive to keep your money in rubles. I don't think it's going to work. I don't think that there's any
exchange rate at which people want to keep their money in rubles. They just want to get out as quickly as they can.
So, in addition to raising the rates, they've also limited the amount of foreign currency you can buy with your rubles. Effectively putting in place
pretty harsh exchange controls. And they do that because they're running out of money. Even though they have all this money in the bank, they can't
access it. And so, you know, we've -- you know, these are tough measures that have been imposed for sure. They will have a big effect on the average
And I guess the logic behind it is that a lot of average Russians don't want a war in the first place. And they particularly don't want a war when
it's costing them so much personally. And although, Russia is not a democracy, Putin can't help but see that people are pretty angry about the
ISAACSON: Bill Browder, thank you so much for joining us.
BROWDER: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, there are, according to the United Nations, some 500,000 Ukrainians who have already fled this war. And Germany today announced that
it would take in all Ukrainian refugees who are fleeing Russia's invasion. And the French president, Emmanuel Macron, has been central to diplomatic
efforts to try to end this crisis. Trying to persuade Putin across that infamous long table.
Francois Heisbourg advised his presidential campaign on National Security and he's joining me here now.
Welcome to the program.
FRANCOIS HEISBOURG, FORMER CAMPAIGN ADVISER TO EMMANUEL MACRON: Hello.
AMANPOUR: Let me first ask you about something that's troubling just about everybody, and that is Putin's order on Sunday to put forces, deterrent
forces on high alert. I want to read you what the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, said, the people who know Putin the best, people I
know in Russia, are worried about his recent nuclear statement. The people who know him the least are saying it's cheap talk. Where do you come down
HEISBOURG: I agree 100 percent with what he has twittered. The few things I know about what is going on in Russia are exactly in that direction. That
is the closer you are to the leader, the more worried you tend to get about the order, the nuclear order.
In itself, it's not a big deal, even if it is, to my knowledge, the very first time since the creation of Russia in its current form that that level
of readiness has been put in place. But in itself, it's not that big a deal. But what is a very big deal is that the events over the last few
weeks and days have demonstrated that President Putin does not play the bluffing game. He says what he wants and then he goes about trying to get
it by hook or by crook.
And therefore, I take this particular threat in earnest and it should be treated seriously and not simply as an old man's bluff, the bluff of a man
whose projects are otherwise not going great.
AMANPOUR: Well, actually, that's what General Petraeus said, too, at the beginning of this program. He said, this needs to be taken very, very
So, France is a nuclear weapons power as are the other five members of the Security Council. They don't generally talk about their nuclear readiness
or anything like that. What do you expect? Should we be hearing from, you know, our leaders?
HEISBOURG: I think I would be very surprised if we didn't hear something from our leaders over the next couple of days. I know there have been
intensive consultations between the western capital, the nuclear capitals in particular and NATO as well on how we -- how to put it, how to handle
this particularly, if I can use that word, explosive package so that we don't misread him and that we don't either have inadvertent escalation or
we have -- or we do something which could actually encourage him to believe that he could get away with it.
AMANPOUR: This nuclear blackmail?
HEISBOURG: Nuclear blackmail, quite possibly.
AMANPOUR: In terms of trying to figure out his mindset, today, President Macron spoke with President Putin. I mean, at least he's still picking up
AMANPOUR: Apparently, it lasted an hour and 30 minutes. The French readout was that Macron asked for an immediate -- he's demanded an immediate
ceasefire and a halt to targeting civilian infrastructure, plus the refugee corridor. What else do you know about it? What did Putin say?
HEISBOURG: From my understanding of what happened is that Putin stated, of course, the annexation of Crimea had to be recognized, that Ukraine had to
be demilitarized and neutralized. It's not very kind. And that the security defense proposals which Russia made last December have to be accepted.
AMANPOUR: So, he's still saying the same thing?
HEISBOURG: On the future of Europe, on his project to bring Europe back to where it was strategically 30 years ago --
AMANPOUR: Just before the Soviet Union fell.
HEISBOURG: Exactly. He is proceeding exactly the same way he's been proceeding on Ukraine, that is he is simply not budging. He has an enormous
ambition. And if he doesn't get what he wants, he invades the country which poses him a problem. This is what happened with Ukraine. He doesn't change
his aims. He changes his means. And if you don't change your aims, and your means don't work well enough, then you ramp up and you ratchet up. This is
what he did with the invasion of Ukraine.
And what we will see in the next few days when -- because it's not going terribly well -- he will have to double up and he will do so. And this is
one of the things which makes the whole atmosphere today so tense. I mean - -
AMANPOUR: Today, President Macron also spoke here in Paris with Ursula von der Leyen and the senior members of the European Commission, the council.
And how do you think the E.U., the U.S., NATO have demonstrated or do you think they've demonstrated a significant resolve to Putin?
HEISBOURG: What has happened on that front is enormously good news. We have had a level of early and lasting solidarity on this, precisely because
Putin's plans were so obviously unacceptable. We have stuck together. I have never seen in my professional life time, at least, since some of the
more nastier episodes of the Cold War, I have never seen the Europeans and the European Union and the Europeans and the Americans together in NATO
operating not only in a united way but in a very vigorous way.
I mean, the sanctions package is just growing like topsy. I mean, it's -- I don't think many analysts, including myself, would have thought two weeks
ago that we would arrive at this situation. And what is even more incredible is that this has been done at supersonic speed, the sanctions
package, as it is today, was put together in four days amongst more than 30 states. This is unbelievable.
AMANPOUR: And Germany totally turned on a dime.
HEISBOURG: And Germany is now a different country. Germany, in five days, has broken with the knee-jerk, pacifism, the complacency also in dealing
with global affairs, which characterized that country for so many decades. That is over. And it's been instantaneously over. And in the most initially
unpromising circumstances, a new coalition, untried leaders, and it was very rocky in December and January because they were trying to find their
feet. And then, somehow it all came together and they decided that they weren't going to spend time to find their feet, that they were actually
going to change the game.
AMANPOUR: And Olaf Scholz, who we're seeing, you know, on the screen right now, I mean, he called Putin inhumane and saying, we have to stop this
warmonger, that is the word her used. And now, President Zelenskyy in Ukraine has signed papers whereby he is asking to join the E.U.
HEISBOURG: Absolutely. The photograph.
AMANPOUR: Yes, the photographs, which we'll see in a second. And we're going to play his appeal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We call on the European Union for Ukraine's immediate accession under new special
procedure. We are grateful to our partners for being at our side, but our goal is to be with all Europeans and most importantly, to be equal. I'm
confident that this is fair. I'm confident we've earned it. I'm confident that all this is possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, this is pretty intense. I mean, he's got so much pressure on him. And he's really stepping up to the plate, right?
HEISBOURG: Yes. And Zelenskyy is, for me, one of the revelations of this crisis. You know, when you have something as stressful as a full-blown war
and invasion of your country, you find out very quickly whether you're seriously good or whether you're seriously bad.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you --
HEISBOURG: And he's seriously good.
AMANPOUR: Well, he's certainly has demonstrated that. And we were with him -- we were together in Munich this, you know, last weekend where he
appealed to the West. And he said, this isn't just about my country. It's about the whole world. It's about freedom. And democracy versus
dictatorship. But how do you see -- you've studied this for a long time, you've advised a lot of people, what is the off ramp? Is there an off ramp
for Putin? Does he even want an off ramp?
HEISBOURG: That's the -- your last question is the right one. Macron tries to offer and has been trying to offer him an off ramp. And that's a very
reasonable thing to try to do, get him to climb down from the top of his diplomatic and political coconut tree, as we say in French. But Putin is
simply not interested in moderating his goals. He hasn't given an inch on any of his core proposals and statements since last July.
And when he's offered an off ramp, he doesn't know what is being mentioned. It's not a notion which he seems to understand.
AMANPOUR: So, briefly, very briefly, what should we take from one of the Russian delegation members who went on Russian television and said, well,
we think we have come back with a couple of areas where we can make progress?
HEISBOURG: Because the phone call between Macron and Putin was linked to a phone call between Macron and Zelenskyy, there was discussion of issues,
which you mentioned earlier on, such as refugees, types of weapons which are used and one or the other of these, maybe there was a little bit of
progress, real or potential --
AMANPOUR: But not on the big stuff?
HEISBOURG: Not on what Putin calls his core demands.
AMANPOUR: Francois Heisbourg, thank you so much indeed for joining us.
HEISBOURG: Thank you very much. It's been a pleasure.
AMANPOUR: Thank you very much.
And finally, tonight, around the world, people are gathering to show solidarity with Ukraine and to protest Putin's war. From Berlin to Warsaw,
Bangkok and Montreal. This weekend, supporters waved flags, they held anti- war signs and they chanted on the streets.
And in London, iconic landmarks were lit up in Ukraine's yellow and blue.
And that is it for now. If you ever miss our show, you can find the latest episode shortly after it airs on our podcast. You can find that at
cnn.com/podcasts and on all major platforms. Just search for Amanpour or scan the QR code on your screens now. And remember, you can always catch us
Thank you for watching and good-bye from Paris.