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Russian War Crimes?; Interview With Former Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired March 03, 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.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ukrainians are friendly. We don't want to have war and we don't want to have quarrels with somebody. We want just peace.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): As Russia intensifies its attack on Ukrainian civilians, we hear from a resident in Kherson, the first major city now
occupied by some Russian forces.
And the International Criminal Court begins an investigation into war crimes. The prosecutor Karim Khan joins us.
Also ahead, former Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev calls on all Moscow's diplomats to resign in protest. He joins me with an insider's view
of the Kremlin.
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, FORMER U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: There's been a general recognition by the intelligence agencies that Russia has become
much more hostile.
AMANPOUR: Former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff talks to Walter Isaacson about what NATO needs to do to prevent a Russian
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
And, tonight, chilling words from France. After speaking with President Putin again today, President Emmanuel Macron says the worst is yet to come
in Ukraine. The palace says there is nothing in what Putin said today that should reassure us.
Putin took to the TV to tell his people that the war is going according to plan, this, though, as Russia turns to pounding cities into submission
after failing to quickly occupy the country. Overnight, Russian forces entered the strategic port city of Kherson in the south. Now they're said
to be strangling nearby Mariupol, where residents have been trapped without power or water.
Here's correspondent Matthew Chance on what is now a war against civilians.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Russia's assault on Ukraine continues without mercy. This is what's left of
a university in Kharkiv, the country's second city, amid a pounding of civilian areas.
In the port city of Mariupol, also the scene of heavy shelling, local officials say hundreds of casualties are now feared.
United Nations has confirmed more than 200 civilians killed across Ukraine in the week since this Russian invasion began. Ukrainian officials say the
figure is much higher.
You would think those figures would scare people off the streets, but look at this scene from the town of Konotop, where a Russian officer holds up
two grenades for protection after delivering an ultimatum demanding surrender.
"Shame on you," the angry crowd shouts. "Just go back to where you came from." Minutes later, the local mayor sets out Russia's terms.
"If we start resisting, they will shell the city," he tells the crowd. "But if you vote for it, we will fight back. The decision has to be taken by
everyone though, because the artillery is aimed at us," he warns.
Across Ukraine, there continue to be courageous acts of civilian defiance against the Russian occupiers. This was a scene in the southern town of
Melitopol, now under Russian control, locals literally lying in front of these military vehicles to resist.
There's resistance on the battlefield too, Russian officials admitting nearly 500 of their own soldiers have been killed so far. Ukrainians say
the figure is closer to 6,000. Either way, the human cost of this war is already tragically high.
AMANPOUR: And of those Russian losses on the battlefield, Putin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, says their acts of bravery will, of course, go
down in history as a feat in the fight against the Nazis.
But listen to this message from elderly Jews in Kyiv, who do know the history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): On June 22, 1942, during war, I was Kyiv being shelled. My relatives were killed in Babi Yar.
February 24, in 2022, I'm in Kyiv again being shelled. Putin, withdraw your army and get out from Ukraine!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It's a horrifying monstrosity. Putin, I hope you die!
Leave us alone, you bastard!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A very clear message, very clear defiance.
But back to Kherson in the south, where we're now joined by 27-year-old teacher Svetlana Zorina.
And welcome to our program.
Tell me what's going on there. We don't want to say exactly where you are. But you -- can you go out? What are you seeing right now?
SVETLANA ZORINA, KHERSON RESIDENT: Hi.
I'm right now ready in Kherson, yes.
I'm sitting in my apartment, so in the apartment in the apartment building. In our district, it's pretty quiet. But we all -- we hear explosions, our
city flooded with Russian occupants. But the flag is still Ukrainian and hope it will stay Ukrainian.
We try not to go outside because it's dangerous. We just -- I just for today, first time during three last days that I came to check near a store
like 400 meters from me if they have some food. And there was nothing because we are surrounded by Russians. And it's impossible to deliver here
food or medicine.
So we are basically trying to save what we can. And we have food supplies, but it will be enough for a couple of weeks. But I...
AMANPOUR: Svetlana, let me ask you. I mean, you're obviously bravely sitting there and trying to figure out what you can do and what you can't
The Russians are in the city, as you say. The mayor has said that the flag still flies. And you have just said it as well. And we have got these
incredible pictures of a couple of city residents who went up and retrieved the flags from the Russian soldiers then waved them around. And as the
picture pulls out, you can actually see that, on the city administrative building, the big Ukrainian flag is still flying.
I guess I'm asking you about that, because is there a sense -- are you hearing anything about anybody in charge, not just the soldiers on the
streets, but are the -- is the mayor still there? Is there -- are you hearing anything about how the city is going to -- is going to work over
the next several days?
ZORINA: Our mayor is in contact with us, and city administration is in contact with us. There are Telegram channels. There is a Web site of our
And they are -- share information -- spread the information with us. There is a huge propaganda the Russians try to spread among Kherson and Ukrainian
people that it's like we want to become a part of Crimea. It's not true. We doesn't -- we don't want to.
The mayor just tell us how the city will function during the next couple of days, that transport will work for people who work in electric station,
water station, et cetera. And they're trying to deal with dead bodies.
But we don't know exactly how Russians will be kicked out of our town. But I think, if this information isn't shared with civilians, there is real --
there is a reason for that. So, we trust in our -- we trust our mayor. We trust our government. We trust our army. We believe in our victory.
We're Ukrainian city and we want to stay Ukrainian city.
AMANPOUR: Do you -- are you in touch with any friends or any anybody who may have tried to resist them or talked to the soldiers? Have any of your
friends or family talked to these Russians and asked them what the heck they're doing there?
ZORINA: I'm in touch with my friends and family.
But it's mostly women, so I didn't talk with anybody who was in touch with Russian soldiers, but I see a lot of videos. And Russians are not aware why
did they come here, what is -- what was their goal, and they treat -- Russian army treat the soldiers very badly.
They're crying, our people feeding them. And if they give up to take -- put away their weapon and just want to give up, our army doesn't hurt -- don't
hurt them. They treat them very -- like as human beings.
So I think that the Russian army don't do the same for them. People are basically crying.
AMANPOUR: Svetlana, we have seen pictures in other parts and some pictures from Kherson of civilian targets, houses, residential neighborhoods,
kindergartens and the like.
What can you tell us about the targets that were struck in your town, in Kherson.
A lot of civilian buildings were struck, buildings for -- apartment buildings for people. My friend who's originally from Kherson, she's in
Kyiv now. Her parents' house, apartment building, it was bombed.
And the school near the school where I studied also was bombed. They bomb hospitals. They -- I don't know. They shoot to apartment buildings. People
are sitting in their apartments or basements. And women who are pregnant gave birth gave birth to their children in the basements.
And I think it's a horrible situation.
AMANPOUR: You said that you had enough food maybe for two weeks?
AMANPOUR: What will you do? Do you think you will leave? Are you going to stay and try to resist? Are you scared?
ZORINA: I'm scared, but I think I'm more angry than scared. And I don't want to leave. I don't want to become a refugee. I want to live in my
I was born in Kherson. I lived here almost all my life. And I don't want to change it. And I hope it's going to be over soon, and Russian army going to
leave, occupants are going to leave. And I don't want to leave. Of course, if there is some big danger, I will.
But I very -- really hope that it's not going to be needed. So, I would like to stay, if it's possible, as much as possible. I want to live in
Ukraine. I'm Ukrainian.
AMANPOUR: Well, you and all your people are really brave. And you're making such a huge impact on everybody around the world.
And we, of course, wish you the best. Svetlana Zorina, thank you for being with us.
The International Criminal Court says it is now proceeding with an investigation of the Russian invasion.
Chief prosecutor Karim Khan saying that 39 of the court's member states had requested that.
And Karim Khan is joining me now from headquarters in The Hague.
Welcome to the program, Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.
You were -- were you surprised to be asked and to, at this stage, just a week into this war, to start launching an investigation into war crimes?
KARIM A.A. KHAN, CHIEF PROSECUTOR, INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT: Not really, Christiane.
I issued a statement when I was in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh, reminding all parties to the conflict of their obligations to respect international
humanitarian law, and that we have, as the court, jurisdiction.
I invited also on the 28th of February that all state parties may accelerate the work of the office by referring matters to us. And the very
next day, in fact, on the 2nd of February, I should say -- 2nd of March, we got 39 state party referrals, and perhaps more to follow.
I think it's critically important. It's important because it triggers jurisdiction. And it's also important as a statement that the whole world
is watching. And the whole world is concerned about the events that are unfolding in this horrible conflict.
AMANPOUR: Chief prosecutor, let me ask you.
You probably heard our previous guest, Svetlana Zorina, who is trying to take shelter in Kherson, which seems to have been occupied, at least
somewhat, by the Russian forces. She described civilians' infrastructure being targeted.
I guess I'm trying to ask you this, does that amount and do those videos and what you're seeing amount to usable evidence, at least in the start of
KHAN: Well, we're at the start of the investigation, so we need to collect evidence, and forensically review it to make sure it's authentic and it's
One thing is certain, that intentionally directing shelling or targeting civilians or civilian objects is a crime within the jurisdiction of the
court. And even if there's military necessity, there's a clear obligation upon parties to a conflict to not use disproportionate force, to make sure
the ordnance used and the weapons don't have a very wide footprint in heavy civilian areas.
So, one needs to look at it. But, of course, it's a matter of concern. And this was another reason why we moved forward with some alacrity to open the
AMANPOUR: President Putin has spoken again to President Macron of France. And, honestly, it's chilling. The readout, frankly, from both sides seems
to dovetail that the worst is yet to come.
That's certainly from the French side. And that Putin said -- and I'm going to quote what the French sources say -- that he's available for
negotiations, but he emphasizes the discussion must take place on the grounds of neutralizing and "disarming" -- quote, unquote -- Ukraine, and
that if Kyiv wants to talk, it must act now. If they don't accept these conditions, he shall obtain the same result with the military path.
That just seems to telegraph more of this war against civilians that they have turned to now.
KHAN: Well, I think the important point, from my perspective, talking, posturing is part, unfortunately, of the ugly reality that we face across
But surely, in 2022, we can come together, united by basic legal principles, to say that there's no place for horrendous crimes that
constitute crimes against humanity or war crimes. And I think this is the purpose of having a permanent International Criminal Court. And this is
really why, in 2014 and 2015, Ukraine also made a declaration that they accepted the court's jurisdiction.
The reality is not the words. The reality is what happens on the ground and the obligation that, as we speak, civilians, women, children, men are
shivering with fear or with concern in subways or on the border or in other locations. And I think the protective mantle of the law needs to be moved
from The Hague as a theoretical idea into a very practical reality.
And I think this collectively is what the referral will allow us to do.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you? Because I assume that you're going to have to investigate all sides. Is that correct?
And I made -- underlined this, in fact, Christiane, in my statement. All parties, whether regular forces, militias, self-defense groups, have an
obligation to comport themselves based upon these basic principles of humanity. And we will, as the International Criminal Court and as the
office I lead, put a constant yardstick in terms of the conduct that we find that takes place or has taken place.
AMANPOUR: And what happens? Because Russia is not part of the ICC, and you do not have the actual power to deter and apprehend.
How -- I mean, we're talking down the line now, once you have finished a lot of your forensic investigations. How do you actually get people from
wherever to actually face trial?
KHAN: Well, this is complex, of course, and it can take many different forms.
At this stage, the quest is to get to the truth. You know very well, Christiane, being in so many conflict zones, that truth is the first
casualty of war. And so we, as the office of the prosecutor, need to resuscitate the truth, and let it walk, so that it can be properly assessed
So, once we complete our investigations, if there are people that are charged, based upon evidence, of course, then there's a multiplicity of
options, from voluntary surrenders, to the -- to other methods to try to bring people to the court.
I want to emphasize that I'm willing to speak to all sides, and not just the Ukrainian side, but also the Russian Federation, state parties and non-
state parties alike. This institution is not political. We're not part of the geostrategic or geopolitical divisions that we witness around the
We are united by these elemental considerations of humanity that really must bind us together. And I think that has to be emphasized. We have no
other agenda except to pursue our mandate, without fear, without favor, with independence, and with impartiality.
And I think the reason why so many support international justice is a hope for a better tomorrow. The law is not perfect. The state of international
relations is such that there's many contradictions. But we have to come together within certain parameters. And the Rome Statute and Ukraine's
declaration clearly gives us a parameter.
And we must not shirk our collective responsibility. It's not my responsibility alone. It is the responsibility of every man, woman and
child. I have said repeatedly there's no place when you're dealing with genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes, for spectators. Everybody
must play a part.
And if we do that, hopefully, things can get better. And, at the very least, we can insist that the rights of victims to justice can be properly
and fully vindicated. And if we don't try, we have no chance. At least if we try, maybe we can move the dial on accountability in a way that is
positive and meaningful.
AMANPOUR: And I guess to those who really care about the pursuit of justice, you can cite precedents. And you mentioned that I have been in
One of them was, obviously, Bosnia. And I was -- witnessed the formation of the International Criminal Court to try the accused war criminals and the -
- bringing them to justice, and the convictions, et cetera.
Would you say that people should have hope that, actually, justice will be pursued, and there is precedent?
KHAN: I think some things are worth fighting for not by the gun or by the bullet, but by principle. And we need stamina.
We collectively must have the stamina and the focus to build a better tomorrow. And you're quite right that, in the former Yugoslavia, many
people thought there could be no accountability. And we saw, despite many naysayers, that cases were brought in terms of whether it's Karadzic or
Mladic in Rwanda, again, Jean Kambanda, the former prime minister, and Charles Taylor in the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
We see 20, 30 years after the event in Cambodia the quest for justice was realized, however imperfect, in the extraordinary chambers of the Court of
Cambodia. We don't want to wait that long. And this is why, within 24 hours of the referral, in fact, even much less time, I opened an investigation.
I have already sent a team to the region. And we mean to fulfill our mandate, however difficult, whatever the paucity of resources, to vindicate
the rights and responsibilities that are vested in us. And I think that's what we're going to try to do.
AMANPOUR: Karim Khan, Putin has also denied -- and he did so in his call with President Macron, who, again, asked him, told him to stop targeting
civilians. He denies having done that.
But he did have another TV address to the people of Russia. And I wonder what you make of it. I just want to play this little segment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): It is clear that we are fighting the neo-Nazis, the Nazis. And we can see that in the course
of the fight.
We see that they have foreigners, foreign mercenaries, even from the Middle East. And they're covering up. And they're using the civilians as the live
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So he's doing what we saw them do in the Serb separatists in Bosnia and all these. People claim that they are bombarding civilians
because fighters are hiding in the middle of them, and completely without evidence.
But that's chilling. Do you expect that to be, I guess, a rationale for more of this stepped-up war against these civilians? And can you use that?
KHAN: Well, at the moment, we have to gather evidence and then assess it, and filter it, and then apply a forensic analysis to that particular
As I said earlier, Christiane, truth very often is the first casualty of war. And in the fog of war, there will be a variety of stories that are
told. One needs to pierce the veil by independent and impartial investigations.
One thing is clear. Of course, having human shields or using civilians is not permitted in international humanitarian law. But even in circumstances
where there are fighting -- fighting is taking place, there is belligerent activity in an urban area, that does not give a free license to use
indiscriminate or very heavy weapons that will obviously disproportionately affect the civilian population.
So, whether it's cluster bombs or thermobaric weapons, commanders in the battlefield need to use great discretion and with great diligence decide
how they wish to wage conflict now that it started.
And the law is here and the court is watching, and we have experts that will try to get to the bottom of it. And I hope the existence of a
permanent court may play a role, however small, in making commanders in the battlefield, military commanders or civilian superiors or soldiers realize
that there is accountability.
And it's not just targeting, Christiane. I'm increasingly concerned -- and you will know it very well, better than me -- that very often now it seems
that fighting is taking place in urban areas.
I'm really concerned that crimes against and affecting children and sexual and gender-based crimes very often may take place in different conflicts.
This is an area, whether it's in apartments and flats in urban areas, or whether it's in places of detention.
We have seen since 2014, 2015, in the first military actions by the parties, these types of allegations were made, and some of them clearly
seemed to be credible. And what I would say is that all individuals need to really be aware that we will try our best to have zero tolerance, and
pursue those crimes, not just targeting, but crimes against children and sexual and gender-based crimes with as much stamina, with as much
resources, and with as much perseverance as we can muster.
KHAN: Because we must surely, in 2022, to try to strain every sinew to prevent these crimes from being committed and, when they are, try and
struggle for justice.
AMANPOUR: And important to note that the Yugoslav court did also make rape as a tool and as a weapon of war a crime against humanity.
Karim Khan, chief prosecutor at the ICC, thank you for joining us from The Hague.
Now, there are Russians demonstrating at home against this war. According to a local human rights organization, almost 8,000 have been detained and
protests have been criminalized. Journalists have been muzzled and only state-run propaganda can be aired.
My next guest, Andrei Kozyrev, was foreign minister in the 1990s. And he is calling on all Russian diplomats now to resign in protest.
Foreign Minister Kozyrev, welcome back to our program.
ANDREI KOZYREV, FORMER RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Do you think that your call for resignations will actually resonate? Or are they all just too afraid?
KOZYREV: Resonate, I think, definitely. Whether they will actually do something directly, like actually resign, I'm not sure. Maybe not.
But it will be a -- so to say, a waking up call. And I think that many people in Russia will start asking questions, like their families and
especially younger children, like 20 years, around 20 years, they will ask questions. Hey, father, mother, what is going on? What are you actually
representing? What are you defending, this kind of barbarity?
AMANPOUR: Mr. Kozyrev, the Russian president today said that the war is going according to plan. And he basically told the French president that if
he doesn't get what he demands from the negotiations, he's going to get it by military domination the ground.
What do you expect? I mean, you know Vladimir Putin. You know those people around him. What do you expect to -- for the world to see in the next
KOZYREV: Well, just -- well, if I were Macron, I would not go. And I would not then, like, reproduce what he says.
It's bravado. But this bravado should be met with two things. Those two things should help him to see a reality, because he's kind of delusional
now, partly because of the long story of the Western, including French, appeasement policy.
But if the West stands where it is -- seems to be now, and America leading that, like, more severe sanctions now, and more weapon delivery to Ukraine
now, then he's not crazy. He's just brazen. So, he will know when people start to kind of be indignant in Russia. And they need also a wakeup call,
like a shock therapy, if you will.
That's why sanctions are important.
AMANPOUR: Well, it's really interesting to hear you say that, because many have said, oh, you know, sanctions won't do it. Putin has said, we're
sanctions-proof. We have done this, that and the other. And, to be fair, Foreign Minister, it was Putin who called the French president today,
according to the readouts.
And I guess, you know, last time, I asked you -- we spoke around 2016, during the Syrian assault and Russia, you know, bombing cities like Aleppo
on behalf of Bashar al-Assad, and I said, can you ever imagine as a foreign minister seeing your government, you know, doing that. And I'm going to ask
you again, could you ever imagine seeing a Russian government do this in what they call a neighborly, brotherly, you know, all one people Ukraine?
KOZYREV: They are brotherly people. And its barbaric act, whether I could imagine it when I was the foreign minister, it was completely out of
question. But later, on I started to understand that they are going down the hills or to say there -- and they feel impunity, and both at home and
abroad, and that's kind of increased the appetite, unfortunately, not for building Russia. And now, they are destroying the future of both brotherly
people with this fratricidal war.
So, it's difficult to understand. But what is important to understand that sanctions, especially the sanctions on government officials, both
government officials, not on the oligarchs and probably not even so much on oligarchs, those are people with money, but the West like European Union
should start to target the decision makers, or executers of those decision makers in the government.
AMANPOUR: Well, they have. As you know, they've sanctioned for the first time Putin himself, they sanctioned for the first time one of, you know,
your successors, Sergey Lavrov. And I want to ask you specifically about him, because you tweeted a couple of days ago with a picture, Lavrov
rightfully sanctioned by the U.S. and E.U. today, was my deputy in the '90s. Used to have my back. Today, I would watch my back if he was behind
I mean, I realize there's a turn of phrase, but does he have any influence? Does he have Putin's ear? Who do you think Putin is listening to?
KOZYREV: I think he's more on the executioner side, he just follows the orders. The orders come from other people, and sanctioning whatever Lavrov
or Putin, it's, you know, like doing almost nothing because nothing, I think, is on their names. You cannot find anything.
What I am saying, that when the European Union sanctioned the parliament, the parliamentarians who voted for the war, that is something. You know?
But America still did not follow that as far as I know. But that's important. Those are the guys who are not, of course, decision makers like
the normal democracy. But they are very close to power, and the next time they will think what they want.
Imagine if all of them get on sick leaves, and then there is no decision. It's not their reward. It's not that they spend against Putin necessarily,
but they might resign, too, you know. So, the West should be more serious about that. Find people who are very close to power but not necessarily
immediately changing the game, but that will be felt. That will be felt. But it's not Putin or Lavrov because they are kind of -- you can't find
their assets. It's all on the other people.
AMANPOUR: And let me ask you about any kind of diplomatic way through this. The Chinese seem to have adjusted their commentary about this, first
having supported Putin and now, talking about, you know, wanting to, you know, play a role as a peacemaker, maybe, deploring the bloodshed or being
concerned about civilian casualty and the like. Do they -- I mean, is that at all an avenue that could influence Putin?
KOZYREV: No, not at this stage. First, he has to understand that it's a serious issue, that, as I said, there will be hardships and discontent in
Russia inside and the outside world will be very response in its response, and Ukrainian people prove that they are very strong with their response.
And then, when he comes to a more sober assessment, that's the point, more sober assessment of the situation, then it's easy.
He can call by phone, like other world leaders and say simple thing, yes, we need the cease fire and I start to withdraw, because the cease fire
without withdrawing means continued occupation. And that's it. Then it will go very good.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, let me ask you, what realization because there were a lot of observers over the last week who rightly said that this is kind of
strange, you know, Putin has launched this entire military, air, land, sea, into Ukraine, and he is not getting the kind of immediate results that
presumably he thought he would. So, that is -- you know, that is resistance that he didn't think he would get.
Are you surprised? Tell me what are you thinking about the Russian forces and the orders that they were given and why is it going the way it's going?
KOZYREV: Well, it's first of all, a resistance of the Ukrainians and they need more weapons, they need more help, like medicine and all that. And
that's a very, very decisive factor. That's why I am calling to the West to continue and to increase the assistance.
And second, you know, it's very difficult to imagine that Russian military force with all of this (INAUDIBLE) type of armor and all that, that they
are much better than a corrupt Russian economy, corrupt Russian management, government management. I mean, Russia has declined in country. Russia in
stagnated economy at best before any sanctions.
KOZYREV: So, it's very difficult to imagine that the military are so far away from the country itself.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Andrei Kozyrev, thank you so much, foreign minister, thank you for joining us.
Cyberspace has become part of the combat zone. And the U.S. Senate has passed major cyber security legislation this week following warnings of the
potential for Russian attacks. Michael Chertoff was Secretary of Homeland Security, and he tells Walter Isaacson what NATO needs to do now to prevent
such an attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Christiane. And Michael Chertoff welcome back to the show.
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN AND CO-FOUNDER, THE CHEFTOFF GROUP AND FORMER U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Good to be back.
ISAACSON: You were Secretary of Homeland Security. Your job was to protect our country from attacks. What type of attacks, particularly cyber-attacks,
are you worried about now?
CHERTOFF: I think cyber-attacks are the thing I'm most worried about. We've seen the Russians use cyber tools and cyber weapons against Ukraine,
and against other countries. As we turn up the pressure and sanctions, particularly on the financial system, there is a concern, and I know that
U.S. government has articulating this, that our banks will become targets for cyber-attacks, ransomware or other kinds of attacks that are designed
to affect availability, integrity or confidentiality of data.
The other area I worry a little bit about is the energy sector, again, that's an area that Russia is deeply invested in. They're going to pay a
price with sanctions and they may try to visit the price on us.
ISAACSON: When you were Homeland Security Secretary, did you worry more about a Russian state attack or did you think they were going to use
proxies and kids in St. Petersburg, and hackers around the world in ways that are harder to defend?
CHERTOFF: Well, this is going to sound strange, but back when I was secretary, which was 2005 to 2009, we didn't worry about the Russians. The
Russians were generally reasonably friendly to us because they were concerned about Jihadi terrorism. And so, they cooperated, to some degree,
with us in terms of what we were doing in Afghanistan.
And we thought that conflict with Russia was a historical artifact, not anything we were going to see again. What's happened in the last, you know,
dozen years, is Russia has transformed back into more of an adversary state. We also now worry about China, and we continue to worry about
terrorism, although now it's domestic terrorism as well as international terrorism.
So, the kinds of issues that we have to be concerned about for security have multiplied. And as we've seen in the last two weeks, it turns out we
haven't met the end of history, we just turned the page and now we're back to the history of the cold war.
ISAACSON: Do you think we were unprepared then, since we weren't focusing on Russia in the early 2000s, that we were unprepared for understanding
what they're capabilities might be?
CHERTOFF: I don't think it was that we were unprepared. I mean, we always knew they had capabilities. I think we thought that their mindset had
changed more or less permanently, and I think what we didn't see, and I'm sure there are analysts who are looking at this now is that Putin would
become more and more hostile, particularly in the last 10 years.
And in the last couple of years, he's apparently isolated himself because of the pandemic and I'm sure that has an effect on his mental state. So, I
mean, this is a question of intent rather than capability. And it is true, though, that, you know, 15 years ago, most of our intelligence was focused
on the next Jihadi terrorist attack, and we may have lost some of our intellectual resources directed at Russia and China. And now, all of a
sudden that's back.
ISAACSON: Why do you think our national intelligence capabilities and our assessment capabilities did not spot the possibility that Vladimir Putin
was going to change or understand what his motivations were changing would be?
CHERTOFF: Well, I can't speak for whether the intelligence community saw this coming. I think certainly since the election in 2016, there's been a
general recognition by the intelligence agencies that Russia has become much more hostile, and there's been a lot of focus on misinformation and
cyber-attacks. We saw, for example, solar winds, which was a major cyber- attack that was by the Russian intelligence services. So, we did see that they were migrating to hostility in becoming more adversarial.
What I don't know is whether we actually anticipated that Putin would decide he wanted to engage in an old-fashioned land war. And I'm sure that,
right now, the intelligence community is examining itself to make sure they're not missing other cues that might be out there that we need to be
ISAACSON: Explain to us what happened in that solar winds attack, which was a cyber-attack from, I think, the Russian government itself. What
happened and what did we learn from it?
CHERTOFF: Well, Walter, usually what we see when the Russians attack is they use a criminal group as a proxy. In this case, they were able to
identify direct attack from the GRU Russian Military Intelligence on a network service provider that provides network management services to
thousands of customers. And what they did is they embedded a vulnerability there so that everybody that was using that service to manage a network
wound up importing a vulnerability into their own networks.
It's a little bit like dare I say, the way a virus transmits itself to human beings, we have a carrier, and then everybody who comes in contact
winds up potentially getting sick. So, they embedded that, and then they were able to use that, not to hack every single network but to find the
ones they wanted to hack and then have basically a back door.
And along with colonial pipeline, which was your Russian criminal group that basically forced our pipeline to shut down for a period of time, you
could begin to see the Russians expand the scale and scope of what they might do in cyber space.
ISAACSON: The Russian criminal groups like the ones that attacked colonial pipeline, are those coordinated with the Russian government or are those
out of control?
CHERTOFF: I don't think they're out of control, and I think that basically the message the Russians send is, you do what you want, just don't do it
against Russian victims. And when we need you to do something, play ball with us. And I think that's been going on really for years. The Russians
use this as deniability.
I'd go back to when I was secretary and there was an attack on Estonia in 2007. And when we tracked it to Russian servers, the Russians said, oh,
it's not us. It's patriotic Russian criminals who are doing this. And I don't think we really believed that, but we understood that they were using
criminals as a cutout in order to have deniability.
ISAACSON: When Russia does such an attack and when it's clearly been able to be traced to the Russian government, is that an offensive attack and if
it's on Estonia, which is a NATO member? Does that trigger NATO's collective defense article?
CHERTOFF: Well, actually we did work with Estonia when I was in office to help them with (INAUDIBLE). The bigger question is, other than acting
defensively, what are we prepared to do in terms of retaliation or deterrence? And that's been a topic of debate for several years now.
I mean, I do think there have been some instances where we have struck against a server that has been used to attack us, but we've not really
mounted, you know, a very consequential cyber-attack because we haven't, frankly, wanted to escalate and get into a real conflict. That's a
phenomenon we're now observing in real-time, which is we have to make sure in the physical world we're calibrating our response so as not to actually
trigger something worse.
But I think if we do see significant cyber-attacks going forward, I think we may yet engage in having a little bit more of a forceful response. But
again, calibrating so we don't trigger something that gets out of control.
And to be honest, this is what makes this kind of a global situation very fraught because you want to be tough, but you don't want to be reckless.
ISAACSON: What type of offensive capabilities do we have?
CHERTOFF: I mean, we have -- I think we're better than anybody in the world. I don't think there's anybody better in our ability to hack and then
take steps if we wanted to with various kinds of tools to either shut down or delay or otherwise have access through a cyber system.
We generally don't do that. There may have been a couple of instances in the past where we've taken offensive measures. But most of the time, we use
our cyber for purposes of simply collecting intelligence, which is traditionally what the intelligence community does.
ISAACSON: Do we have the capability to try to hack and stop communications or other computer systems of Russia as they go into Ukraine? In other
words, break down their command and control, and should we?
CHERTOFF: Again, I can't tell you exactly where our capabilities are in this situation. In general, I would say we have a lot of capability. The
challenge is, again, calibrating what is a reasonable response to one that triggers something that gets out of control.
And certainly, Putin's comments about nuclear weapons suggests he's, you know, quite attuned to threatening us if we get involved in an actual
conflict. That's one of the reasons I think the administration wisely said, we're not going to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine because that would
put us in direct conflict with Russia, and then things might spin out of control.
And I have to say, Walter, traditionally, whether it's in Ukraine or Syria or elsewhere, we have been careful to make sure that we don't overstep in a
way that might get the Russians paranoid and then we could lose control of the situation.
ISAACSON: Why haven't we seen a major cyber-attack from Russia, either orchestrated at Ukraine or orchestrated at us?
CHERTOFF: Well, I have to say that's been a little bit of a puzzle. Now, there have been some attacks on Ukraine that preceded the physical attacks,
but they were actually relatively nuisance attacks, not anything compelling. For example, they didn't shut down the grid, energy grid as
they had done in prior years for a period of time. And so, it's a bit of a puzzle as to why they've held back from doing that. But I wouldn't assume
that that's not going to happen at some point.
It may be right now they're so focused on using physical resources and kinetic resources against Ukraine that they're not thinking about cyber-
attacks. But that could easily change in a moment.
ISAACSON: Do you think that there are problems with their physical attacks, with their movements of tanks and troops, the fact that they
haven't been able to just roll right over Ukraine might cause them to change their thinking in that regard and hit with cyber-attacks?
CHERTOFF: I think it's very possible that they might decide to use cyber- attacks, particularly because their on the ground assaults seems to be faulty. And now, they've moved from what I was, I think, they imagined
would be a lightning blitzkrieg, which turned out not to. They have now moved into basically dropping huge amounts of ordinance missiles on
civilian areas. If that doesn't wind up getting them what they want, they may do cyber or they may do all of the above.
What's not clear now is what the objective is. I don't know that they really want to occupy all of Ukraine. I don't know what they have done
actually allows them to install a puppet government. To be honest, I'm not sure they have a game plan at this point. And I don't know, as David
Petraeus, you know, said many, many years ago, how does this end? I don't think they've thought about that.
ISAACSON: President Biden said that if the Russians attack our infrastructure or even attack our critical companies, that we're prepared
to respond. Are we?
CHERTOFF: I have no doubt about that. I'm quite sure that we have the capability to respond against their resources, their command and control,
their servers. The issue will be calibrating the response so it has key, but so it doesn't spiral out of control.
And to be honest, I think one of the reasons Putin has made some of the statements he's made recently is what they used to call the madman theory
of politics. If a political leader acts crazy enough, it may deter people from responding to an attack because they're worried what he's going to do
next. So, there is a little bit of that madman theory that I think Putin is using now. But again, it's very hard to -- I can't read his mind. I don't
have access to what he's actually thinking. And so, taking care to be very calibrated about response is, I think, of critical importance.
ISAACSON: I remember when you were Homeland Security secretary, and then when you were one of the leaders of the Homeland Security Group at the
Aspen Institute, a topic that you kept discussing which was, what is our critical infrastructure? In other words, do we have a critical
infrastructure list in which we say, if you attack this it's a major attack, i.e., if you shut down our electricity system, if you break open
our dams? What is critical infrastructure and how do we define that when we tell the Russians don't go there?
CHERTOFF: Right. We've published publicly, and it's revised from time to time, you know, a list of the areas, the critical areas that we consider
critical infrastructure. It's obviously things like finance, communication, health care, energy. We don't give them -- we don't announce or publicly
state specific enterprises, but it's not hard to figure out that if you attack and wind up causing a loss of life or significant economic damage,
we reserve the right to respond, not only in kind but using others kinds of tools. And we have said that publicly over the years.
So, I don't think there's much of a doubt about what we would treat as critical infrastructure. The issue would be, what is the degree of
consequence that has to ensue before we take steps in response to retaliate, and what would those steps be? And I think there you do want to
have a little bit of strategic ambiguity. You don't want to give a road map to the adversary. But I think that they are aware of our capabilities. It
may be that is determined to some extent or it maybe they're waiting on something else.
But I think we are prepared. I think one thing the administration has done in the last year is they have been really working operationally to
coordinate with the private sector in defending and responding to attacks. And so, I think we are improving literally week by week, but, of course,
the adversary is also changing and evolving.
ISAACSON: You talk about critical infrastructure, you say it's pretty clear which ones that if the Russians attack were going to respond. Should
our election system be considered a critical infrastructure?
CHERTOFF: I believe that one of my successors, actually, Jeh Johnson, announced for the 2016 election that we were going to treat the election
system as critical infrastructure. And certainly, in terms of cyber-attacks against, for example, servers, we've been working with state and local
officials to have them increase their cyber security.
The good news is that the actual voting machines themselves are generally not connected to the internet, except very briefly when the election is
carried out to send results in, and we can also create a paper back up. The bigger problem with elections is disinformation. Where the Russians attempt
to create disunity or to mislead people about things involving voting in a way that would make it difficult for some people to vote.
But actually, disinformation piece, which I think we saw in 2016 and 2020, is the biggest tool that the Russians and other adversaries use to try to
undermine not only our elections but our sense of trust in the government.
ISAACSON: Secretary Michael Chertoff, thank you so much for joining us.
CHERTOFF: Thank you, Walter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And finally, amidst that darkness of war, humanity does shine through. Hundreds of Germans welcomed exhausted Ukrainians at Berlin's main
train station with food and clothing. They were holding signs in Ukrainian and English, and they also opened their homes to the groups of mostly women
and children who left behind husbands, fathers, sons, brothers to join the fight against the Russian war.
That is it for now. And if you ever miss our show, you can find the latest episode shortly after it airs on our podcast. On your screen now is a QR
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Thank you for watching, and good-bye from London.