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Interview With French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian; Interview With Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby; Interview With Ukrainian Official Andriy Yermak. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired March 30, 2022 - 13:00:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR live from Kyiv tonight. Here's what's coming up.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): In Ukraine, doubts about Russia's next battlefield moves. My report from the scene of a missile strike near this capital,

which hit just as Russia announced a pullback.

Then, we assess the current playbook with President Zelenskyy's chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, and with Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.

Also, the French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, joins me on President Macron's ongoing talks with President Putin trying to end this


And Walter Isaacson speaks to author, military analyst and former U.S. Marine Elliot Ackerman.


AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in Kyiv, where Russia is continuing bombardment of Ukrainian cities blunt

hopes of a diplomatic breakthrough.

The Kremlin says it is ready to consider a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskyy. But world leaders remain skeptical

about Russia's pledge to scale back military activity near this capital.

In fact, Russia continued bombing Chernihiv throughout the night, as well as the outskirts of Kyiv. Meanwhile, President Zelenskyy took his

diplomatic case to Norway today, tying Ukraine's security to all of Europe.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The future of the entire continent, from north to south, from east to west, is being

decided right now on our land, Ukrainian land, and Ukrainian airspace, and Ukrainian waters, so that your soldiers won't have to protect the countries

of NATO's east, so that the Russian mines won't drift towards your ports, your fjords, so that your people won't have to get used to the sound of air

sirens, and so the Russian tanks won't be gathering at your borders.

We have to stop Russian aggression together, and only together.


AMANPOUR: Now, earlier today, I visited Brovary on the outskirts of Kyiv, and it's the subject of ongoing Russian bombardments.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Missiles have struck the town of Brovary, a suburb of eastern Kyiv, twice in the last week alone. This tangled, jagged mass of

metal and cladding is what's left of a massive warehouse that stored food, paper and the beer and alcohol that's no longer allowed to be consumed

under martial law.

(on camera): This happened at almost exactly the same time that the Russians were announcing their de-escalation around Kyiv. This missile

struck right here.

Imagine the good fortune of the truck driver who was loading up to take crates and packages and boxes of food and supplies to the supermarkets in

this town and also to Kyiv. He managed to survive.

(voice-over): We are told three workers were killed. But Brovary has never fallen to Russian forces.

Directly west of here, Russian and Ukrainian troops have been fiercely fighting over the town of Irpin. And now it does appear that the Russians

are retreating from here, a clear indication that this war around Kyiv has simply not gone the way Russia planned.

Whatever the reason Moscow says it's retrenching, their intercepted radio conversations verified by "The New York Times" show their soldiers in

distress from the very start.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I urgently need refueling, water, food, supplies. This is Sirena. Over.

AMANPOUR: This was west of the capital in Makariv in the very first days of the war, already signaling the focus on civilians once their own so-

called properties were out of harm's way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There was a decision made to remove the first property from the residential area and to cover the

residential with artillery. Over.

AMANPOUR: This security video shows a Russian armored vehicle just blowing up a car, instantly killing the elderly couple inside.

Ukraine has lost its fighters too. Here in the Brovary cemetery, Boris, the caretaker, shows us freshly dug graves.

(on camera): This guy, this soldier died on the very first day of the war.

It's raining. It's drizzling here today. It's almost as if this city is crying as it mourns its war dead, because all of these graves are for the

fighters of this place who have fallen in combat since this war began.


This grave has been dug, but the family can't yet bury their son, a soldier who was fighting in a village 15 kilometers away, but it's held by the

Russians. They haven't yet been able to get his body released.

(voice-over): And even Boris' heart breaks when he tells me about a father who's just lost his son, his only child, and who asked: "What do I have to

live for now?"


AMANPOUR: Now I want to show you this map. It highlights the places near Kyiv where Russian troops are still operating, mostly to the northeast and

northwest of the city.

Correspondent Fred Pleitgen, my colleague here, spoke with residents and Ukrainian troops around the capital to find out what they make of Russia's

pledge to pull back military operations. Take a listen.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even after Russia announced it plans to withdraw most forces from around Kyiv, the fighting

continues. Residents we spoke to told us they don't believe Moscow's words are for real.

"On the one hand, they retreat and on the other they will transfer their efforts to other positions," Alexander says. "So it's difficult to talk

about it withdrawal."

"I do not believe in it. It's probably just a rotation," says Yuri. "It's a regrouping of their troops."

Despite its forces being stalled near Kyiv for weeks, Russia claims it will withdraw because it has achieved its military objectives and now wants to

make a positive gesture to Ukraine, Moscow's negotiating team said, after talks in Istanbul.

"A decision was made to radically, at times, reduce military activity in the Kyiv and Chernihiv directions," said Russia's deputy defense minister.

But the Russians also made clear this is not a cease-fire, and the sounds of heavy battles still reverberate around the capital.

But the territorial defense forces at this checkpoint say, make no mistake. If the Russians really do withdraw, it's because they lost.

YURIY MATSARSKI, UKRAINIAN TERRITORIAL DEFENSE FORCES: From the first days of war it was obvious with the Russians will be defeated on the

battlefield, in the diplomatic field, in political field. It was out of the question.

PLEITGEN: While many here hope the battle for Kyiv could end soon, the toll both in blood and infrastructure is massive. And parliamentarian Roman

Hryshchuk tells me he's not sure Ukrainians will ever be able to trust Russia again.

(on camera): How long do you think it could take to make relations better again before there can be trust between Russia and Ukraine again?


PLEITGEN (on camera): Or trust towards the Russians, I would say.

HRYSHCHUK: I think it will be years and years, maybe hundreds of years. And every people in Ukraine lost all the house of relatives, of friends in

this war. And our children, they have a night in shelters, they listen to these bombs, and it's for ages.


AMANPOUR: Now, trust has obviously been so terribly shattered, even as diplomatic maneuvers continue.

Today, President Biden told Volodymyr Zelenskyy that the United States will provide the Ukrainian government $500 million in direct budgetary aid to

keep the government's lights on.

Andriy Yermak is the chief of staff to the president. And he's joining me now.

Mr. Yermak, thank you so much for joining me. I know you have so much going on, including trying to figure out what exactly the Russians mean.

Can you tell me how you assess what the Russians said yesterday, the idea that they were going to de-escalate around this capital?

ANDRIY YERMAK, HEAD OF THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE: Good evening. Thank you that you invited me. And I know you're in Kyiv. And

thank you for this.

Concerning your questions, we can say that we don't see the real confirmation of all the statements of Russians. We think that they change

their strategy and change the plans, but it's not mean they stop the war, unfortunately.

And I can say that the situation, it's still very difficult, especially I can stop -- for humanitarian situation. It is very bad. The city of

Mariupol is gone. Just imagine, it's like -- by the size, it's very similar of the Miami.

It's totally ruined. And the Russians didn't let the citizens out of the city. And the Russian troops forced thousands of them to move to Russia.


I think that the catastrophe of the Mariupol, it's -- I can say it's very similar to what happened in the time of the second war -- Second World War

in Leningrad, because the people practically died without food, without water. It's terrible.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Yermak, it is indeed terrible. And we are seeing these images and that new overhead video showing the destruction is really


And I don't know whether you have any hope that any humanitarian corridors will be opened. But I guess then I need to ask you, what do you believe

now, after all these weeks of war, but also of talks between the Ukrainian and Russian delegations? What do you believe Russia's endgame is right now?

YERMAK: The -- our city -- now, Ukrainian position, it's a very open and very transparable (sic).

We want to stop this war. We want that Russian troops will withdraw of our territory. We insist that the humanitarian corridors will be open,

especially once again to the Mariupol.

But in your questions already have the answer. If we still have the block- out of Mariupol, if we still in the night and in the day have the bombing of our city, you can see what happens one day ago in Mykolaiv. And we still

receive an increasing number of the people who is killed.

How possible to believe in it? Of course, we are nonstop. Our delegations continue these hard talks. And, yesterday, it happened in Istanbul. It's

good, because we have changed the place, because it was impossible to continue in Belarusia, to continue this conversation.

Plus, I can say that now it looks like dialogue. It's the second good things. But, still, it's in discussing. And I can say that, for Ukraine, we

have the very principled position. And we want to go to any compromise which corresponded to our independence, territorial integrity and

sovereignty. We are ready to discuss and continue, our delegation.

Truthfully, here in the office of president's, working 24 hours, seven days by the video. Yesterday, it happened in real time.

I have very, very small portion of the optimism of this. We continue this talking, but we started to believe in reality if some real things started

to happen. And the first once again, it's necessary to stop block-out of Mariupol, because we have some things, some ports, that it can be


And in the same time, it's the position and concentrated, for example, all the forces to the Donbass, because we are listen some statements of the

Russian officials. And it's possible to not be concerned about it.


Andriy Yermak, can I ask you whether you have enough weaponry to defend yourselves while these talks keep going on, and until you do get a cease-

fire and some kind of negotiated end to this? President Zelenskyy appealed to the Norwegian Parliament today, and he's asked for a lot more weapons.

Do you have enough to defend yourself in the meantime?

YERMAK: No, not -- and why President Zelenskyy and all our team continue to talk every day and make this speech in the different parliament.

Tomorrow, President Zelenskyy have the free speech in the Australian Parliament, in the Parliament of Netherlands, and the Belgium. And he

continue to do it and continue to talk with the world leaders.


It's happened in the level of the prime minister, in the level of the minister on the foreign affairs. In my level, I talked with sometimes --

before, this war, I have the permanent and very often contact with my colleagues, for example, with Jake Sullivan, with Emmanuel Bonne from

France, of Ibrahim Kalin from Turkey.

Now we sometimes talking here several times per day, because, of course, we have not enough weapons. And we need it. We need it to continue our


And I hope that all our partners now absolutely understand. And if they really want that Ukraine win, but win, not receiving -- destroying our

country, and survive, and be safe of our people, because Ukraine now paying extremely high price, extremely, because, every day, they have killed our

children. Every day, they killed our people

We need to survive. We need to survive our heroes, our soldiers. We need to survive the people who now keep the Mariupol, because we used every day to

think that our heroes, our civilians go out from Mariupol. They are pressing to them. They block and keeping without food and water, without


But all the world can see that Ukrainians, its nation, which never stopped fighting for -- because we are fighting for our land. We are fighting for

our country. We are fighting for all democracy world.

AMANPOUR: And can I just ask you very finally?

You're a very good friend, as well as being chief of staff, to President Zelenskyy. You have known each other for a long time. How is he holding up?

How are you holding up, beyond your very robust public statements every day?

YERMAK: Sorry. Can you repeat, because I lost you?

AMANPOUR: I just wanted to know how you are and how the president is and how you're holding up under all of this.

YERMAK: We are OK.

I think that our soldier, our people in the -- some cities, as Mariupol and Zaporizhzhia, in most bad situation. I think that we are doing which we

have to do.

The president's absolutely brave. He's -- feel good, and he's absolutely really the leader today of our nations. And he's a person who give this

necessary energy and necessary brave to all Ukrainians and to all world, to all people in the world, because I am absolutely sure that if people of the

world support Ukrainian.

They make -- they choose. And they can see the thousands of the people in the streets of the different city in the world. And we will win. Ukrainian

will be winner. We are sure about it. But it's necessary to do it as soon as possible.

AMANPOUR: Andriy Yermak...

YERMAK: Thank you very much. And thank you again for being here personally in Kyiv.

We are very appreciate. Thank you for your great job.

AMANPOUR: Thank you for talking to me this evening. Thank you.

YERMAK: Thank you. Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Now listening to all of this was Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby, who echoes President Biden's skepticism about Russia's claims.

And he is now joining me from Washington.

Welcome back to the program, John Kirby.

You just heard very impassioned, very deep heartfelt pleas from Ukraine, just not far from where I am. They say they don't have enough weapons yet.

What can you do about it? I know the president has just pledged another 500 million. What can you do about weapons? And tell us about what they have


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We continue to do more. And we try to get more in as fast as we possibly can, Christiane.

The president, as you know, just signed off on another $800 million. This was a about a week or so ago. And we are already delivering on that

package. And the one before that of $350 million, we achieved that in a record three weeks.

So we're continuing to flow shipments of security assistance in every single day. The other thing that we're doing is coordinating the deliveries

of other nations. Some 14 other countries are providing security assistance to Ukraine. And we're helping get that into the country as well.


AMANPOUR: Let me just play what President Biden said. And I know all of you have echoed this, the skepticism about the claims from the Kremlin

about de-escalating around this capital.

Here's what the president said.

KIRBY: You bet.



I don't read anything into it until I see what their actions are. We will see if they follow through on what they're suggesting.


AMANPOUR: So that's short and sharp, but very clear.

What are you seeing? We have seen how your intelligence has been so spot on, certainly in the lead-up to this. What are you seeing, given what the

Russians said that they were going to be doing?

KIRBY: What we're seeing over the last 24 or 48 hours is the movement, repositioning of some units, mostly of those that were arrayed against

Kyiv, but even to the east of Kyiv seeing some of them move north and into Belarus, not a lot.

They still have -- most of their forces that they had arrayed against Kyiv are still there. And they are still striking the city from the air and with

artillery, but we have seen some movement of some troops. And what we think this is, is a repositioning, a redeployment of sorts, in other words, that

they're going to refit, resupply these troops, and then put them back into Ukraine in another place, another geography, another part of the country.

Now, we don't know exactly when. We don't know exactly where these troops will go. But our belief is that they're just being repositioned for more

offensives elsewhere in Ukraine. I would note, however, that the Russians themselves have said that they are going to put a special priority on the

Donbass, on the eastern part of the country, where there is still a lot of heavy fighting going on.

AMANPOUR: And, John, we have obviously been around and out and about. I have and so have colleagues.

We heard and we saw the heavy bombardments that are going around various parts just on the outskirts of the capital. And we have seen what's

happened in Chernihiv...

KIRBY: That's right.

AMANPOUR: ... a lot of what the mayor there calls a colossal bombing.

But I want to ask you this, because, I guess, why do you think there's all this fighting going on now, from a military point of view, as you say and

they say they're probably going to redirect forces elsewhere and probably to Donbass?

KIRBY: I think it's a couple of things, Christiane.

Number one, I think Mr. Putin wants to gain leverage at the negotiating table. So, he met yesterday in Istanbul. The Russians said that it was a

constructive conversation, but nothing was really agreed to. We think it's the Russian play to try to bargain for more leverage, which is why they're

continuing the onslaught on some of these city centers, Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Kyiv, Mariupol, which is still under the threat of significant airstrikes.

We also think that what they're trying to do in the east, a couple of things, one, try to fix and hold Ukrainian armed forces that are there in

the joint forces operations area, so that they can't come to the aid of their colleagues further west in the country, and, number two, so that they

can carve off that Donbass.

Now, it's not clear whether he wants it to own it, occupy it and annex it forever, or whether he's trying to be able to achieve some level of success

on the ground there, so that he can use that as a bargaining chip at the negotiating table.

But you heard Mr. Yermak yourself. The Ukrainians are not willing to give up their sovereignty. They're not willing to give one inch of their

territory, nor should they have to. What really needs to happen is Mr. Putin needs to sit down at the table in good faith now, rather than trying

to bargain or leverage himself for more opportunity later on.

AMANPOUR: And yet he does, and yet their forces still continue to bombard certainly places in the south.

I mean, the government here and people are just absolutely beside themselves about what's happening in Mariupol. It is a terrible, terrible

thing to be witnessing even from afar. Clearly, that plays into what you just alluded to, the desire actually to carve out that whole area for



AMANPOUR: And who's going to stop them?

KIRBY: Well, the Ukrainians are fighting bravely in Mariupol, and we are continuing to make sure that we get them as much defensive systems as we

can as fast as we can. So they are -- and they are defending it very bravely.

But you're right. We think -- well, Mariupol is important just because it's a big port city on the Sea of Azov. And there's no question about that. But

it sits at the southern end of that Donbass region. And so we think they definitely -- Russians want it, so that they can, again, carve off that

eastern part of Ukraine.

AMANPOUR: John, the most difficult part of this or one of the most difficult parts of this is what you have essentially all left Ukraine sort

of standing with, and that is no NATO, but they must have security guarantees if they agree to give up NATO, which they have, and if they

agree to be neutral.


Can you even envision or imagine what actual, credible, enforceable security guarantees would look like for Ukraine under this circumstance?

KIRBY: It's difficult to get ahead of the negotiating process right now, Christiane.

I mean, this is obviously a discussion between Russia and Ukraine. We certainly encourage a diplomatic end to this war, a peaceful settlement, a

cease-fire. But I don't want to get ahead of where they are in the discussions and the negotiations over what it's going to look like.

But, clearly, look, Ukraine shouldn't have to be fighting for their sovereignty to begin with. And, again, we're going to continue to do as

much as we can as fast as we can, so that they can better defend themselves.

And look, Christiane, I mean, yes, the devastation is terrible to look at and gaze upon. And the civilian casualties continue to mount. I mean, this

was a war of aggression that was completely unprovoked. But the Ukrainians have fought back very bravely and skillfully. And that's not by accident.

It's not just about the stuff that they have. It's about the training and the support that the United States, Canada, Great Britain, other nations

have provided to them over the last eight years.

AMANPOUR: And, John, just finally, everybody was very worried about this war spreading beyond Ukraine, that Putin would have designs elsewhere.

Do you feel that still as much of a threat?

KIRBY: We have to be mindful of that potential -- that potential outcome.

We have seen no indications, Christiane, that Mr. Putin has designs on any other geography than Ukraine right now, certainly no indications that he

plans to threaten NATO territory or NATO airspace. But we're watching this very, very closely.

And that is one of the reasons why, in addition to providing Ukraine the ability to defend itself, we, the United States, are contributing to the --

to NATO's eastern flank. We're adding more capability, just added some over the last couple of days. We're going to continue to look at that to make

sure that our NATO allies know how seriously the United States takes our collective defense requirements.

AMANPOUR: John Kirby, thank you so much for being with us.

Now, as we mentioned, President Joe Biden did speak with President Zelenskyy today to underscore America's support. In an earlier call with

the leaders of Great Britain, Germany, Italy, and France, all affirmed their determination to continue raising the price for Russia.

The French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, plays a key role, of course, in his government's intense diplomatic effort. And when I spoke

with him earlier this evening, I asked whether his government's dozens of calls and meetings with both parties are showing any sign of progress.


AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister Le Drian, welcome to the program.

Minister, can I ask you how you assess the Russian claim to be de- escalating here in Ukraine?

JEAN-YVES LE DRIAN, FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): At the moment, I can now see that the war continues, indiscriminate shelling

violence, horrific themes in Mariupol, fighting in the Donbass.

War is still raging. The Russia aggression is still ongoing. Just like you, I heard the new statement, but all I can rely upon is facts. And at the

moment, we have seen no Russian withdrawal from nowhere in Ukraine, and the intention of Russia to occupy the entire Ukrainian territory is still


So, we will believe in the Russian words when they translate into action.


LE DRIAN (through translator): But, at the moment, the withdrawal is not being seen anywhere. So, I consider that there is no breakthrough, nothing

new. It is only a statement.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Foreign Minister, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has asked again for more weapons. He's asked the Norwegian

Parliament today for more Javelins, for ship-launched missiles and anti- tank weapons and anti-air weapons.

He says he needs those urgently. Are you confident that France and other nations are getting weapons to Ukraine fast enough and just enough of them?

LE DRIAN (through translator): President Zelenskyy is asking for support and even more support. And such is his role.

And we are, as a matter of fact, impressed by the resistance capacity of the Ukrainian nation, the strength of their military, their capacity to

intervene and everything that is being deployed.


And we want to support the Ukrainian people in its determination in its terrorism.

AMANPOUR: You say, you want the war to stop without going to war yourselves. So, I want to know 35 days into this, how you assess what's

happening on the ground. Do you believe Putin is stronger or weaker? Do you believe that his adventurism will go beyond Ukraine? How do you assess it

now compared to when the war started?

LE DRIAN (through translator): Well, at the beginning of the war, everyone was expecting a very strong breakthrough of the Russian forces. One,

imagine, first of all, that they would take Donbas. And we then saw that it was an attack all over Ukraine. And one month after the beginning of the

war, we can see that they've been facing a strong Ukrainian resistance because there's such a strong Ukrainian sovereignty. Because of the joint

willingness of all of the Ukrainian is so strong and because, as well, we've been supporting Ukraine in its fight.

President Putin, probably, is bound to bend the actions of the Russian military. And for more than three weeks now, he's been waging a war of

siege, as we say. It is terrible in Mariupol, as well in Kharkiv, and it will probably happen to other cities, as well. And this war of sieging is

terrible. And President Putin already has experienced of doing so because it is very much the matter that was used by the Russian forces in Aleppo.

It is, first of all, shelling then taking out the population hostage, and then pretending to open some humanitarian corridors. And then consider that

those who did not use, the so-called, humanitarian corridors that go to Russia, well, those people who did not leave are being considered

terrorists or Nazis, to use the wording of President Putin.

So, this war of siege is terrible and it is still going on. And if Russia wishes to make some gesture, they have to put an end to that. In particular

in Mariupol. They have to lift the siege of Mariupol. They have to allow access to Mariupol for humanitarian purposes. That the humanitarian

resistance can reach the population. And to that as well, the Mariupol people are free to move. So, that would allow us to give the minimum of

credibility to the Russian statements.

AMANPOUR: It does seem that Russia has been withdrawing some of its original major demands from Ukraine. Your President, President Macron, has

been speaking to President Putin just yesterday, I think, was the latest. What is Putin saying? What does your President -- what do you believe is

Putin's aim right now? What are his demands right now?

LE DRIAN (through translator): I do not know what is the goal of President Putin. What I am aware of is that President Macron want to speak to

President Putin on a regular basis with some sort of an obstination (ph) to, first of all, to end and lead Putin to a ceasefire (INAUDIBLE). But

from the beginning of these talks, President Putin did not make a move or nothing visible, including during the negotiation phases. And in Istanbul

on the occasion of, you know, these negotiations, there was nothing new. No breakthrough on what has been discussed. It is -- it was three weeks

already in Belarus, in (INAUDIBLE), or in (INAUDIBLE) exactly, the issues are still the same.

And on the merits, well, it doesn't seem that President Putin has changed in any way, shape or form. He still wishes to impose his (INAUDIBLE) on

Ukraine. And what is new in the talks in Istanbul is that it's been made public. On the other hand, on a much note that President Zelenskyy has made

some openings, in particular, regarding neutrality of Ukraine. But in (INAUDIBLE) he also wants some security guarantees to be given to his

country. And at the moment there is nothing like that in the discussion.


So, yes, there are ongoing talks, that's a good thing. There is no breakthrough. And fortunately, the priority for us is a ceasefire. And the

utmost priority is on the listing of the siege of Mariupol.

AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister, the Ukrainian presidency says that, a ceasefire must not be the basis for dismissing sanctions. They believe

President Putin is playing with the international community and still seeks to divide you. Are you confident that you remain united? And what would be

the condition for any lifting of sanctions?

LE DRIAN (through translator): Since the beginning of the Russian aggression, we've seen free awakenings (INAUDIBLE) which were probably

unexpected by Putin. First of all, an awakening of the Ukrainian nation. It's solidity, it's coherent, it's determination. And the awakening of the

European Union as well, which not only affirms itself as a power but also very quickly we've able to show its unity. And also, to take some major

decisions quickly, efficiently, and unanimously.

And then there was the third awakening that of NATO which, at some point in time, we've been wondering about its own future and it's now back to its

fundamentals. So, here again, unity, on the collective defense of the Euro- Atlantic Space. And I believe that President Putin did not expect that. He did not expect a joint and coherent action.

So, yes, we've adopted sanctions so that the price to be paid for this aggression on Ukraine, the price for Russia, and particularly for the

Russian authority. The price should be searched and that it is in the interest of the Russian leaders to negotiate. So, there shall be no

prerequisite for a ceasefire. A ceasefire is a must. It is the condition for the opening of negotiation. And we're well aware of the elements of the

future negotiation. First of all, in the best possible, it is important that negotiations can take place in the best possible circumstances, that

is with a ceasefire.

AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister Le Drian, thank you very much for joining us.

LE DRIAN: (Speaking in foreign language).

AMANPOUR: Now, someone who is following the crisis here closely is Eliot Ackerman. He's the author and former U.S. marine who served five tours of

duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and has just spent two weeks here in Kyiv. Ackerman joined Walter Isaacson to discuss Russia's new tactics and the

role of moral resolve in war.


WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Christiane. And Eliot Ackerman, welcome back to the show.

ELIOT ACKERMAN, AUTHOR AND FORMER U.S. MARINE: Thanks for having me, Walter.

ISAACSON: Russia has just said that it's going to concentrate now on the Eastern Ukraine and try to pull back some of its troops from Kyiv. You've

just spent two weeks in Kyiv and parts of Ukraine. Tell me why you think this is happening.

ACKERMAN: I think it's Russia conceding that the initial objectives of its invasion were too large. They do not have what, in military terms we call,

the troops tasked to take all of Kyiv, let alone all of Ukraine. I mean, Kyiv, this is a massive city of nearly four million inhabitants before the

war. So, the fact that they are planned of Kyiv and trying to focus now in the East and in the South, shows that war is entering a new phase in which

the Russians will, I believe, be pursuing a more limited set of objectives.

ISAACSON: You know, you write a piece in "The Atlantic" that, the Russians don't know how to empower their soldiers. You were a marine in Iraq and in

Afghanistan. What's the difference between the way you felt empowered and the way Russian troops are fighting?

ACKERMAN: So, in NATO countries, we employ what are called mission tactics. And what that means is there is a philosophy of empowerment by

which, you know, every small unit leader, from the 21-year-old corporal up to the general officer understands the mission and the intent of the

mission. And the reason for that is oftentimes, you know, the best-laid plans don't work out.

And so, in the fog of battle, the chaos of war, when the plan isn't working, if everyone understands the mission, you have a more adaptable

military. And you can create new plans very quickly from the lowest levels up to the highest levels. Now, the Russian model is a far more centralized

model where the planning is far more intricate, the decision making is made by a small, much more senior group of officers and that can work very well

and be effective.


But the challenge is when the mission doesn't go according to plan at the lower levels, there's this inability to adapt. And, I think, probably the

greatest visual we have on that from this Ukraine war was -- if we recall the 40-mile convoy extending North through Kyiv. And I think in the early

days, many Ukrainians and observers are so terrified. You know, what is this enormous convoy that's going towards Kyiv. But in reality, now in

hindsight, is that was really an enormous traffic jam. And things haven't gone according to plan and everyone in that convoy had no ability to adapt.

So, ultimately these different war fighting philosophies, we see them translating as a difference in adaptability on the battle field. And the

Russians have shown an inability to adapt, particularly in this first month of the war.

ISAACSON: What has the use of javelins and antitank weaponry taught you about how tactics and strategy are shifting in wars like this?

ACKERMAN: Well, you know, this is a really important issue to be watching right now in the war in Ukraine. And so much as we're seeing a

technological shift occur on the battlefield where these antitank missile systems, like the javelin and the British made NLAW, are very capable. And

they are destroying the latest Russian tanks. So, these are what are called anti-platform weapons. They're designed to destroy platforms like tanks,

you know, platforms also include things like high-tech fighter planes and very expensive capital shifts.

And so, what we're seeing as a trend is as these anti-platform systems become more effective, they reduce the importance and the centrality of

these massive platforms on the battlefield. And the U.S. needs to be paying attention to this because the U.S., in particular, we have a very platform-

centric view of warfare where all of our war-fighting capacity is manifested in if you're in the army in our tanks, if you're in the air

force in our fighter planes, the very expensive F-35 or aircraft carriers if you're in the navy. So, as we look for future conflicts in U.S. could be

engaged in, it's important to take away this lesson in the Ukraine, which is, we need to be very careful that we're not confronting an adversary who

we perceive as weaker, but who, in fact, has a very strong anti-platform capability that could level the battlefield for us.

ISAACSON: You're a marine and fought in the battle for Fallujah. Tell me how that contrast to the battle for Kyiv that the Russians were trying to


ACKERMAN: When I fought as a marine in the battle of Fallujah, I was an infantry officer. And our infantry worked very closely with our tanks, the

Abrams battle tank, which is a state-of-the-art tank but similar in capability as the Russian tanks. And I watched on numerous occasions we're

advancing into the city, Abram tanks absorb rocket-propelled grenades, which was the best anti-tank weapon the insurgents had against us.

Now, those tanks if they -- instead of being hit with a rocket-propelled grenade, had been hit with the javelin, they would have been immediately

catastrophically destroyed. And so, the efficacy of tanks in an urban environment was really -- is called into question when you have these very

effective antitank missile systems. And that's going to be will important to note in any potential battle for a major Ukrainian city whether it's

Kyiv or we've already seen this taking place in cities like Mariupol and even Kherson.

ISAACSON: So many analysts said that the Russians would just right in like Blitzkrieg into Kyiv. I think the Russians thought so as well. why did they

get it wrong?

ACKERMAN: The big story here in Ukraine, as much as we've been talking about technology and the technology is so great, but it is a story of

motivation. The Russians have made the enormous mistake of underestimating Ukrainian motivations. Understanding the essential feeling of nationality

that Ukrainians have and have particularly developed since 2014 when this war began with the Russians because any Ukrainian you meet will tell you,

this war didn't start February this year, this war started in 2014 when Russia and ex-Crimea.

So, the Russians really have underestimated, what I would call, the moral aspects of this conflict. And the Ukrainians are fighting to defend their

families and their homes. And so, Napoleon has -- who fought many of his battles in that part of the war, he has one of his Maxims, and the maxim he

said was the moral to the material in war is as three is to one. And we're seeing that right now. That the individuals who actually have that three to

one advantage are not the Russians. It is the Ukrainians. And I believe they will continue to enjoy that three to one advantage. And I think this

was ultimately going to leave them as the victors in this war.


ISAACSON: That moral three to one force multiplier. Is that the just the Ukraine military or is that the grandmothers, the teenagers, the people of

Ukraine all being part of a moral force that's winning this battle?

ACKERMAN: I'll say -- you know, one of the things that's been most remarkable to me spending time over there, particularly as someone who once

considered himself a professional soldier, is that the vast majority of soldiers, you know, the people we're watching each night on the nightly

news, you know, they are not in fact soldiers. They are, you know, filmmakers, bakers, the grandmothers you referred to, young people who've

left school to volunteer. So, this is really a true national mobilization of the sort that I have never seen in my lifetime, and of the sort I only

read about in history books dating back to France's second world war.

ISAACSON: And now are they totally convinced that they can repel a Russian attack, especially on Kyiv and Central Ukraine?

ACKERMAN: Walter, I was recently in Kyiv and I was talking to a Ukrainian filmmaker who had spent some time actually as a political prisoner. And I

made the mistake of saying to him, do you think you'll make a movie about this after the war. And he leaned in closely and said to me, you know

around here, we don't say after the war. And I say, what do you say? He said around here, we say after the victory.

ISAACSON: Wow. You wrote in "Time Magazine", that there's a sentiment in Ukraine that this is not just the Russian leadership, but that this is

Russia. The Russian people who are doing it to them. And I'd like to do a quote from that article, "The Russian people have made a bargain with

Putin, it's one they've made throughout their history. They have allowed a despot to take away their freedom, but in exchange he's offered them

glory." To what extent do the Ukrainians feel they're now at war with the Russian people?

ACKERMAN: The Ukrainians are quick to point ought that if you haven't been paying attention to this region, there has been 20 plus years of Russian

aggression. Whether it's Chechnya, in Georgia, in Ukraine now, twice. And they believe that the Russian people have enabled Putin for two decades and

that Putin is not the problem, that Putin is the symptom of a larger problem and that is Russian aggression. So, the Ukrainians I know and have

spoken with feel very strongly that you cannot decouple this conflict from the Russian people themselves. And if you look at polling, polling does

show strong majority support within Russia for the war on Ukraine.

ISAACSON: So, when Biden says, this man cannot stay in power, referring to Putin, do you think a change in power in Russia would change this attitude

of the Russians in terms of their expansionist views of Ukraine?

ACKERMAN: I think a hope that a simple change of the person on top in Russia is a solution to all of this is probably not realistic. That these

are much, much deeper problems with regards to Russian aggression in that part of the world. So, I don't believe that simply trying to have a

strategy that's solely focused on getting Putin out of power is somehow going to solve the problems that we're seeing coming out of Russia.

ISAACSON: Those of us who write biographies always wonder about the role of a singular person. And so, I was going to ask you about President

Zelenskyy. To what extent has his sense of inspiration, his fortitude helped make it so that Ukraine is -- seems to be repelling the Russian

invasion? And to what extent would this have happened even with a different leader?

ACKERMAN: The best leaders are really vehicles by which nations are able to express and manifest their collective will. So, I think President

Zelenskyy is only as good as the Ukrainian people. But he has shown himself adept at being a vessel to communicate their collective will. And I think

the Ukrainian people are very fortunate that they have a leader like Zelenskyy right now. And I think President Zelenskyy is very fortunate that

the Ukrainian people have all gotten behind me -- behind him.

ISAACSON: President Zelenskyy continually calls for more support from NATO and the United States, including air support. When you were there, were the

things you were hoping that the U.S. and the West should be doing and do you think that would be wise for the U.S. to become more involved in this


ACKERMAN: I think whether the U.S. and the West wants to become more involved in this fight or not is sort of beside the point. We are involved

in this fight. And it is, I believe, an essential one.


It's one that we haven't necessarily seen yet in our lifetime. So, the Ukrainians have been very vocal, and rightly so, about the need to gain

control of their airspace.

We need to be giving the Ukrainians at least the resources to set up their own no-fly zone if we want them to prevail in this war. And I would make --

I would argue that it's essential that they prevail in this war against the Russians. If we, as a, you know, as free people don't want to see the

continued march of authoritarianism across the globe.

ISAACSON: As a marine, what lessons, do you think, that the American military and forces like the marine should take? What have we learned so

far from this fighting?

ACKERMAN: You know, Walter, I think we'll go back to this idea, and it's really a strategic one of the essential nature of the moral in war. You

know, we have in last -- less than a year seen the fall of Afghanistan, and now this invasion of Ukraine. And I think, it's important to tie the two

together. In the case Afghanistan, we saw a highly equipped military that had been deeply trained, really invested in over years and years with a

very dysfunctional government collapse in a matter of weeks. That was Afghanistan.

In Ukraine, we have seen a government that we know we have invested in nearly the same way, have been very reluctant to equip, hold together and

shocked the entire world. And the only real difference in those two cases is the moral factor. Whether or not these people wanted to fight. Whether

or not they wanted to hold their country together. And I think as Americans and as the West as we look forward and we try to figure out, you know, the

strategies that will secure our prosperity, it's important to keep in mind the moral makeup of the country's we're bringing on as partners. So, I

think that that is an essential lesson coming out of this war in Ukraine and one that we should all focus on.

ISAACSON: So, looking at how the Ukraine's defended their freedom and contrasting that with the way the Afghan army didn't, does that make you

think that it was a mistake the way we went into Afghanistan?

ACKERMAN: Well, what it makes me think is, you know, often times we have a tendency to try to disconnect the military aspect of a conflict from the

political aspect of a conflict. As we look at a conflict like in Ukraine or in Afghanistan and understand that what we saw in Afghanistan, in terms of

the military defeat, it was very much linked into the political dynamics on the ground in Afghanistan. And what we're seeing in Ukraine right now,

which is a remarkable victory with regards to the Russians, in a really remarkable demonstration of capability is directly tied into the politics

of Ukraine.

And so, any country that just segregates the military from the political and tries to think about them separately is going to wind up making

strategic errors.

ISAACSON: If there is a compromise to try to end this war, and it involves Ukraine being neutral in -- for swearing being part of NATO, and if it

requires giving up control of some of the Donbas and Crimea or making a disputed territory, do you think the Ukrainians will approve something like


ACKERMAN: I think it's -- at least at this moment, the battlefield conditions being what they are, I think it's very difficult to see an

outcome by which the Ukrainian people would accept a piece built on terms by which they had to concede the Donbas and concede Crimea back to the

Russians. You know, the Ukrainian people, and I think correctly so, viewed themselves as being the winners of this war thus far. And as the winners,

they don't believe they should have to concede anything as the losers who concede. And they view the Russians as the losers.

Now, obviously the, you know, Russians have made incursions into Ukraine. But the Ukrainian people are by no way chastened by what's happened in the

last month. And I don't think President Zelenskyy would have the ability to hand over, even if he wanted to, to hand over territory to the Russians.

So, you know, we're going to have to see how this plays out in the weeks and months ahead. And I anticipate you're going to see a lot of jockeying

on the battlefield for position that could lead to advantages in the negotiating room. But at least, psychologically, right now the Ukrainian

don't -- at least the ones that I've been talking with don't feel they need to concede anything. And I think it would be very difficult for President

Zelenskyy to do so and politically survive at home.

ISAACSON: Eliot Ackerman, as always, very enlightening. Thank you for joining us.

ACKERMAN: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.


AMANPOUR: And that's it for now. Thank you for watching. And good night from Kyiv.