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Interview With Moldovan Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita; Interview With Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein; Interview with "Atoms and Ashes" Author Serhii Plokhy. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired June 17, 2022 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
RIOTERS: Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!
GOLODRYGA (voice-over): The January 6 Committee reveals new details about how Donald Trump's pressure campaign endangered Mike Pence's life.
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.
GOLODRYGA: The Watergate break-in 50 years on. Walter Isaacson talks to legendary reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein about uncovering the
scandal that brought down a president and continues to shape America.
NATALIA GAVRILITA. MOLDOVAN PRIME MINISTER: In the last several weeks, we have seen a number of incidents, explosions.
GOLODRYGA: As Ukraine fights for its existence, its neighbor Moldova also grapples with pro-Russian separatists and a battered economy. I speak to
Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita.
SERHII PLOKHY, AUTHOR, "ATOMS AND ASHES": There is a possibility of a major, major nuclear accident as long as the war in Ukraine continues.
GOLODRYGA: Nuclear threats past and present. Harvard historian Serhii Plokhy he dives into the chilling history in "Atoms and Ashes."
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
Well, it's a pretty astonishing claim. A sitting president was not only indifferent to the safety of his own loyal vice president; his behavior
actually helped cause the threat. Donald Trump's pressure campaign to overturn the 2020 election was the focus of the latest January 6 hearings,
and the committee says his actions directly contributed to the attack that endangered Mike Pence, who was rushed to safety as the riots unfolded.
Correspondent Pamela Brown reports.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former President Trump relentlessly pressured his vice president, Pence, to
prevent the certification of the presidential election, despite knowing Pence didn't have that authority.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): He resisted the pressure. He knew it was illegal. He knew it was wrong.
BROWN: The select committee investigating the January 6 attack chronicling the plan to have Pence overturn the election that was pushed by Trump's
lawyer John Eastman. The 11th-hour pressure campaign reached a boiling point on the morning of January 6 during a contentious phone call between
Trump and the vice president.
IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF DONALD TRUMP: He was on the telephone with who I later found out today was the vice president. The conversation was pretty
NICHOLAS LUNA, FORMER ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I remember hearing the word wimp. Either he called him a wimp. I don't remember if he said: "You
are a wimp. You will be a wimp."
QUESTION: It's also been reported that the president said to the vice president that -- something to the effect that you don't have the courage
to make a hard decision.
GEN. KEITH KELLOGG (RET.), FORMER ACTING U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Words -- I don't remember exactly. It was something like that, yes.
QUESTION: Do you...
KELLOGG: Being -- like being -- you're not tough enough to make the call.
I. TRUMP: It was a different tone than I'd heard him take with the vice president before.
QUESTION: Do you remember what she said her father called him?
JULIE RADFORD, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO IVANKA TRUMP: The P-word.
BROWN: The president then took his last-minute plea to a crowd of his supporters.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us. And if he doesn't, that will be a sad day
for our country.
BROWN: The violent mob then proceeded to the Capitol, many enraged Pence wouldn't do Trump's bidding.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike Pence has betrayed the United States of America!
BROWN: The rioters made it within 40 feet of the vice president. The committee released a play-by-play of how close the violence was to Pence
featuring pictures of Pence from that day.
Minutes before Pence was taken to a secure location within the Capitol, Trump put out a tweet blaming Pence.
SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER TRUMP AIDE: The situation was already bad. And so it felt like he was pouring gasoline on the fire by tweeting that.
BROWN: In the months before the Capitol attack, Eastman continuously peddled the theory within the White House that Pence could overturn the
election in his capacity as president of the Senate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they thought he was crazy.
ERIC HERSCHMANN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ATTORNEY: I said: "Are you out of your F'ing mind?" I said: "You're going to cause riots in the streets."
BROWN: Pence had pushed back repeatedly that it was not within his authority to act.
GREG JACOB, FORMER COUNSEL TO VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Common sense and structure would tell you the answer cannot possibly be that the vice
president has that authority.
This is almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president.
BROWN: In previously recorded testimony, Pence's counsel Greg Jacob said he was party to conversation on January 4 where Eastman conceded to Trump
the plan was not lawful.
Nevertheless, on January 5, Eastman renewed the plan, requesting Pence reject the electors.
JACOB: I said: "John, if the vice president did what you were asking him to do, we would lose 9-0 in the Supreme Court, wouldn't we?"
And after some further discussion, acknowledged: "Well, yes, you're right. We would lose 9-0."
BROWN: Eastman, for his part, e-mailed Rudy Giuliani a few days after the Capitol attack asking to be considered for a presidential pardon, and plead
the Fifth over 100 times before the committee.
JOHN EASTMAN, TRUMP 2020 CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: I started my Fifth Amendment right against being compelled to be a witness against myself.
Fifth. Fifth. Fifth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Our thanks to Pamela Brown.
Well, many are drawing parallels between these hearings and those from Watergate. This year marks 50 years since what seemed like a simple break-
in revealed a scandal that ultimately brought down President Richard Nixon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIXON: To continue the fight through the months ahead for my personal vindication would almost totally absorb the time and attention of both the
president and the Congress, in a period when our entire focus should be on the great issue of peace abroad and prosperity without inflation at home.
Therefore, I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: That stunning moment came after dogged reporting by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, two junior "Washington Post" reporters at the
They broke news about a president's attempt to undermine democracy. And with Donald Trump's actions now in the spotlight, both Woodward and
Bernstein joined Walter Isaacson to reflect on Watergate and its enduring legacy.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Bianna.
And Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, welcome to the show.
CARL BERNSTEIN, AUTHOR, CO-AUTHOR, "ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN": Thanks. Good to be here.
BOB WOODWARD, CO-AUTHOR, "ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN": Thank you.
ISAACSON: It's been 50 years since Watergate. You got a new addition of "All the President's Men" out with a new foreword to it.
Let me start with you, Bob, though, and ask -- people are saying, what did we learn from Watergate? I got a different question. What have we not
learned from Watergate?
WOODWARD: Well, that's important.
As we point out, it was George Washington in his farewell address -- only you, Walter, the historian, would understand this -- in 1796 warned --
Washington warned the country in his words and said, democracy is fragile, and we need to worry about unprincipled men taking and seizing power and
using that extraordinary power.
And, of course, we had Nixon, and now we have Trump. And so, has that lesson been learned? Probably not sufficiently.
ISAACSON: He says that it's got to be cunning, ambitious, and men who are interested only in their own self-interest in that speech.
Carl, is that why Trump is like Nixon?
BERNSTEIN: It's part of the reason. Both of them are criminal presidents in the United States.
Trump is taking it farther. He is the first seditionist president in our history. He tried to inspire, foment an insurrection against the very
government of the United States, something like Jefferson Davis did, who was a seditionist. But Jefferson Davis was not the president of the United
One other aspect to this that we need to think about in terms of parallels or what's not there that you just raised is the role of the Supreme Court
in -- there are two elements. One is the role of the Republican Party. And Nixon was pushed from office because courageous men and women in the
Republican Party said he could no longer be president because of his criminality, and they voted for articles of impeachment.
They would have convicted him in the Senate. We don't see that with Donald Trump. But, also, the Supreme Court in Watergate, by unanimous decision,
ordered Nixon to give over his tapes. And there was a chief justice that he had appointed himself who was part of the opinion.
And we now have for the first time perhaps in our history the question of whether the Supreme Court has been compromised by the wife of a justice on
the Supreme Court who is perhaps a principal in a conspiracy here. We don't know.
But I do know that one of the things the January 6 Committee is looking at very seriously is the role of Ginni Thomas, Clarence Thomas' wife, justice
of the Supreme Court, in this conspiracy and whether or not she may be part of it.
ISAACSON: Bob, would you compare and contrast what's happening now with the January 6 hearings to the Watergate hearings and why these January 6
hearings aren't having the same type of impact?
WOODWARD: Well, it's obviously a sharp, jolting difference.
But just to kind of get the history straight here, what turned the corner in the Senate Watergate hearings in 1973, Nixon first said that he was
going to invoke executive privilege. Then -- and this is one of the themes of Nixon, this delusion he had, well, if his closest aides, Haldeman,
Ehrlichman, Mitchell, testified, they would defend him.
But in the testimony, they started fighting. John Mitchell memorably started talking about the White House horrors. And this whole unraveling of
what happened really began with Nixon's self-inflicted, but I think legal, decision that you can't invoke executive privilege in this case of the
Congress having a legitimate role in trying to figure out what happened in Watergate, which is -- but they're not prosecutors, but they're fact-
And it turned out to be the gold standard of congressional investigations. Now the House January 6 Committee has that responsibility.
ISAACSON: Carl, both in "All the President's Men," then in the foreword to it, and in "The Final Days," the other book that you and Bob did together,
you talked about Goldwater, going to see Goldwater, and how Goldwater led a delegation to see Nixon.
Tell us that story, Carl. And then I'm going to ask Bob to think about, well, what has happened to Republicans now that there aren't people like
BERNSTEIN: Well, Barry Goldwater had been the 1964 nominee of the Republican Party to be president of the United States.
And by the time, a decade later, of the denouement of Watergate, he was something of the conscience of the Republican Party. And he led a
delegation of Republican leaders of the House and Senate to the White House two days before Nixon's resignation.
And he -- Bob and I went to see Goldwater for "The Final Days." We went to his apartment. He gave us each a tumbler of whiskey. And he poured himself
a really big one, pulled out a diary, and started to read to us what his diary said had happened in that historic day.
He and the leaders, the Republican leaders, went to the White House, sat -- and Goldwater sat right across from Nixon. And Nixon said to Goldwater:
"Barry, how many votes do I have in the Senate to be acquitted in a Senate trial?" assuming that Nixon would be impeached by the House, which he would
And Goldwater, knowing that Nixon thought he might have somehow sufficient votes, Goldwater looked at Nixon and said: "Mr. President, right now, you
might have four to six votes for acquittal in the Senate, and you don't have mine."
ISAACSON: And the next day, Nixon resigned, right?
BERNSTEIN: He announced his resignation, because he realized that he -- because of what Goldwater had said, it was hopeless, that he had to resign.
And let's look at one other essential difference between now and then. When Nixon resigned, he did that speech in the East Room. And then he went out
on the South Lawn and got in the helicopter. He did not try to stage a coup to stay in office.
ISAACSON: Bob, you wrote a book about sort of, I'd say, the final part of the Trump administration.
What happened to the Republicans? Were there any Goldwaters there who were ready to tell him the truth?
WOODWARD: No, unfortunately for the Republican Party and for the country.
And if you recall this, Carl discovered that there were -- and literally on the air listed 21 Senate Republicans who had more than disdain for Trump,
though, publicly, they were standing with him. And then, later, a senator called Carl and said, no, there are actually 40.
So this is below the waterline in Washington. These people actually have this contempt for him, but Trump is such a powerful figure, as we know, in
the party. And Carl rightly talks about Trump on January 6, then after, attempted a coup, but, of course, he had lost. He had lost the election.
It turns out that two of Trump's biggest supporters, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Senator Mike Lee of Utah, undertook private in-depth
investigations of Trump's claims. And they discovered, they -- this is not Nancy Pelosi making this discovery. It's the Trump supporters concluding
there is no evidence.
And both of them, Senator Graham and Senator Lee, went to the Senate floor when the Senate was voting after January 6 -- or literally just counting
the votes. And they both -- and as Graham put it so eloquently, count me out. There's nothing here. There's no evidence.
So it is a stunning political situation which I suspect historians are going to be going through for decades. Trump has duped his supporters into
believing that the election was stolen, with zero facts to back it up.
ISAACSON: Bob and Carl, this book "All the President's Men" and your coverage of Watergate, without exaggerating, I can say may be the greatest
feat of sustained reporting in our lifetime.
But how come they kept you all on the story? Was there a movement to give it to the more senior political people?
WOODWARD: Well, there was, but I got called that Saturday morning by Barry Sussman, who was the city editor. I had only been working at "The
Washington Post" for nine months. I was the lowest paid reporter because they wouldn't give me credit for working at a weekly paper for a year, and
sent me to the courthouse.
And this is one of those moments where you are sitting there in the courthouse and they bring in the five burglars who were wearing business
suits. Now, I had -- I was the night police reporter for the nine months I have worked at "The Post," and I had never seen a burglar in a business
In fact, I had never seen a well-dressed burglar. So, immediately, the alarm bells go off. Who is this? What's going on here? And then McCord, who
was the leader of the five burglars, was asked by the judge where he worked. And, reluctantly, McCord said, well, he worked at the CIA as the
head of security, as Carl and I learned the next day.
And we did our first story together. And we really didn't know each other. But there was an instant matchup here. And so I know Carl and I both have
stories about where the leadership of "The Post" gave us, in a sense, our backbone.
BERNSTEIN: I want to give you a quick example.
There came a time not too long after the break-in where I got a call with my desk from the guard downstairs at the entrance to "The Washington Post."
And he said: "There's a subpoena server here who wants to get your notes. He has a subpoena for your notes."
And I said: "Well, keep him down there. Don't let him in the building. And I will get right back to you."
And I call Ben Bradlee. And I went into Bradlee's office and told Bradlee what was going on. And he said: "Well, just make sure the guy doesn't get
upstairs. I'm going to go talk to Katharine," Katharine Graham, the owner of "The Washington Post."
I went back to my desk. Bradlee comes back to me about 10 minutes later, and he says: "Look, Katharine says they're not your notes. They're her
notes. And if anybody is going to go to jail in this, it's going to be Katharine, not you."
What does that tell you about the owner of "The Washington Post," her relationship with Bradlee? They knew what to do at the most perilous
ISAACSON: Carl, and rereading "All the President's Men," looking at your forward thinking back to Watergate and watching the January 6 hearings this
week, I was struck that the personalities of Donald Trump and of Richard Nixon share a lot.
There was a conspiratorial mind-set, a feeling of enemies, a sense of worrying about the hatred that everybody felt.
Can you compare the two of them in terms of the psychology that led to both Watergate and to what happened on January 6?
BERNSTEIN: Well, first, both of them had criminal minds to get what they wanted at any cost. So they shared that.
But they also shared this quality of hatred. And we see it in Nixon. You listen to his tapes, and he says, hate the press, hate the opposition, hate
the anti-war movement, hate the professors.
He was running on hate. Much as fuel for an automobile, his fuel became, to a large extent, hate. It was the piston of really what propelled him
forward. And you see it throughout the tapes.
And, with Trump, it has been a lifetime of hating those who would stand in his way, his contempt for them. And, again, any time someone, for instance,
did the right thing and opposed Trump in his business, what did he do? He hatefully went after them and filed suit against them to try and ruin those
It is a lifetime of hatred with Donald Trump, and he brought that hatred to the presidency.
ISAACSON: In your new introduction, you have a sentence that really struck me, which is: "We believed with great conviction that never again would
America have a president who would trample the national interest and succeed in undermining democracy."
Why were you wrong? Why did it happen?
WOODWARD: I remember in one of my interviews with Trump in 2020 -- this is the year he's running for reelection of, staking everything on reelection.
I asked him, what's the job of the president?
And, quick, he came and said: "To protect the people."
Well, protecting the people, I think, is a good definition of what the job of the president is. But he didn't do it. Everything was designed to
protect himself, including the failure to mobilize the country when the COVID pandemic struck. Trump had the warning from the experts, and he
failed to protect the people.
And this is why I think Carl and I conclude in this foreword to the 50th anniversary edition of "All the President's Men" that Trump was the one who
violated, stepped over the line so many times in a criminal way and in a moral way. There was a moral responsibility that Donald Trump had.
Nixon had this moral responsibility. He ignored it. He did not -- he was only interested in himself again, his political standing. But, as Carl was
pointed out, Nixon left. He got on that helicopter. Trump stayed. And we now have the high possibility that Trump is going to be running for
BERNSTEIN: Well, first of all, we have the essential difference in Watergate and today, in that the system worked to a large extent in
Just the opposite has happened in the presidency of Donald Trump. At no point has the system been able to stop it. He was impeached twice. The
facts were there. The leadership of the Republican Party was craven, refused to look at the facts, supported him down the line.
So, Donald Trump, who is the Most Undemocratic Of our presidents, perhaps, he stages an attempted coup, the kind of thing you would expect by a junta
in South America. It's extraordinary. And the fact that the Republican Party has been captured by Trumpist forces means that we need to look at
the country, not just at Donald Trump, because the country at the time of Watergate had gone to a majority -- all the polls showed a majority of the
people, 57 percent, 60 percent, at the time of the end of Watergate believed Nixon had to go.
We don't have that situation today.
ISAACSON: Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward, thank you so much for joining us.
WOODWARD: Thank you.
BERNSTEIN: Good to be with you.
GOLODRYGA: We turn next to Russia's war and its impact beyond Ukraine's borders.
Few countries are monitoring the conflict more closely than Moldova, Ukraine's neighbor and host to thousands of its refugees. Moldova is also
dealing with its own group of pro-Russian separatists in the breakaway region of Transnistria. So it's pushing to join the E.U. amid fears that it
could be drawn as well into the war.
I recently spoke to Moldova's prime minister, Natalia Gavrilita, about the tense situation.
GOLODRYGA: Madam Prime Minister, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate your time.
Let me first ask you about the latest developments in the autonomous region there of Transnistria. It's closely aligned with Russia since the
dissolution of the Soviet Union. There are about 1,500 Russian troops stationed there. There have been a series of explosions over the last few
weeks that caused a lot of alarm about the possibility of Moldova being brought in to the conflict and war there between Russia and Ukraine.
What is the latest situation?
GAVRILITA: In the last several weeks, we have seen a number of incidents, explosions.
They have not led to any human -- to any loss of life, these incidents that will -- probably indicate the fight of the different elements of the
Transnistrian society. So the situation is tense, but calm. We are doing everything possible to keep the situation calm and maintain peace, both on
the right bank and the left bank of the Dniester River.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, because you have called the stationing there of 1,500 troops illegal.
But there had been sort of a detente between Moldova and Transnistria leading up to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. And President Zelenskyy
was clear that, in his view and his intelligence, that Russia was in fact behind these explosions, creating sort of false flags in order to drag
Moldova into the conflict and to get those Russian troops and perhaps those citizens in Transnistria more involved in wanting to join Russia's efforts
to fight Ukraine.
Do you have any intelligence on your end supporting that?
GAVRILITA: We do not -- we do not have any de facto control that would allow us to gather hard evidence.
But our analysis -- and this analysis has also been shared with our European and international partners. This analysis indicates that there is
no immediate threat for escalation of military activities in the Transnistrian region.
We are maintaining our usual bilateral format of negotiations with the so- called Transnistrian authorities. And we see willingness on their part to maintain peace and stability as well.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, but this unrest began and these explosions began shortly after a Russian general announced that Russia's longer-term plans were not
only to focus there in the fighting in the east in the Donbass region, but to also go further south into Ukraine, into the port areas there of Odessa,
and then eventually into Moldova.
And that's what caused a lot of concern that perhaps Russia was expanding its war beyond Ukraine into Moldova. What is the latest you can tell us on
that? And how concerned are you that Moldova will be next for Vladimir Putin?
GAVRILITA: We took note with great concern of these declarations.
And we, of course, as a government, have to be prepared for all contingencies. So we are now looking at strengthening our capabilities,
given the increased concern. But, as I mentioned, the intelligence analysis so far does not indicate any imminent threat.
GOLODRYGA: And we should note to our viewers that Moldova had recently applied to join the European Union, along with Georgia as well.
And President Maia Sandu reminded European officials that many Moldovans could, to quote her, hear the bombs falling on the Ukrainian city of Odessa
from their homes, just to give you some context of the proximity of Moldova to Ukraine and how close Odessa is to your borders.
GAVRILITA: I have visited the eastern border of Moldova and have talked to the refugees that were coming into Moldova.
And I have met people who have walked from Odessa to the Moldovan border. And just to give a sense of perspective, the Odessa region, which borders
Moldova, is as big as the entire population of Moldova. So, we are very concerned that if the military actions move further East and move into the
Odessa region, we may face new waves of refugees and more instability.
But our people are very open. They have really shown a lot of solidarity this time. We have half a million Ukrainians across the border. And about
77,000 refugees are still in Moldova, half of them are children. And in a recent poll, Moldovans -- 85 percent of Moldovans said that they are
willing to receive more refugees. That they are open to receive them for a long period of time, unconditionally.
And I think there is this sense of community that the Ukrainians are fighting for the values that Moldova also stands for, that the European
Union stands for, and the free world stands for. And that is respect for international law, respect for self-determination of countries, respect for
the sovereignty of territorial integrity of countries.
GOLODRYGA: I want to get to the refugees in just one more minute. But let me ask you, finally, if we can put a close to the military threat. You do
have a very small military and you've received a lot of aid from the United States. I was just there in April with the ambassador to the United Nations
who pledged additional financial aid to help on the humanitarian level.
I'm just curious, are you getting any assistance on a military front in terms of the fears and concerns about any future aggression from Russia?
GAVRILITA: First of all, of course, a country with limited resources, like Moldova, can only face such a situation with the help of friends. And we
are very grateful for the assistance that we received from the very first days through the EU civil protection mechanisms. We have received several
protection equipment. We have some received tents. We have received kits for refugees and so on.
The United States has generously provided additional assistance to its programs. Including in the energy sector, supporting the economy. And we
have also received some additional budget support from the European Union, from Romania. And financing from IMF, World Bank, and countries such as
At the same time, Moldova is impacted economically. We are currently becoming an important hub for transiting the Ukrainian goods, you know,
Ukrainian cereal, wheats, corn, and other products through the Moldovan territory. So, you know, the ports that operated in Ukraine are no longer
GAVRILITA: We, of course, are seeing these economic consequences in very high inflation to our people. So, even though many countries in the world,
and even the United States, are facing unprecedented inflation, if we look at the structure of the economy and the structure of consumption in
Moldova, this is hitting households much harder. Inflation has already reached 29 percent in Moldova. And the tariffs for gas, for example, have
increased six times. And the prices of electricity has increased.
GOLODRYGA: Right. As you mentioned, just for some perspective for viewers, you have inflation hovering around 30 percent. In the U.S., it's just over
eight percent and it's at 40-year high. So, it just gives viewers a sense that the crisis that you are facing and the challenges that you face ahead.
Many wonder, is it sustainable for you to still house so many of these Ukrainian refugees given your own conflicts and challenges there at home?
Which speaks to the bigger issue at hand, and that goes back to your application for EU membership.
I know there is a difference between granting candidate status to being fully accepted. Where are you right now during -- in this application
GAVRILITA: Indeed, we have applied for the membership of the European Union in the beginning of March. And this was a very natural next step for
us because for eight years we've had an association agreement with the EU and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement. 67 percent of our
trade is with EU countries. And we have done quite an effort to harmonize our legislation to EU directives and to bring closer our standards to
We are eagerly awaiting the opinion of the commission and the decision of the council of European states which will take place at the end of June.
And we are very hopeful that in these difficult times, we will see a positive decision which will give a light in the end of the tunnel for
people who are going through difficult times.
GOLODRYGA: And just this week, I'm sure you heard, French President Macron said that your bid to join the European Union was, "Perfectly legitimate".
But there are some challenges that your country still faces prior to even those that have come in the midst of this war. The same challenges, quite
frankly, that Ukraine faced. And that is dealing with internal corruption and reforming your justice system. Where are you on the path to making sure
that you are tackling corruption and that you are reforming your criminal justice system?
GAVRILITA: Indeed, we've had a history of corruption and misuse of powers, state capture. But the Moldovan people have very clearly spoken in favor of
maintaining democratic institution and cleaning up the judicial sector, improving the rule of law, and combating corruption.
So, we now have a new anti-corruption prosecutor who was selected in a competition and appointed just yesterday with great legitimacy. She is from
the Moldovan diaspora. She moved to the United States when she was young and she is an anti-corruption federal prosecutor in the United States.
GAVRILITA: And then we have already started with our international partners. An extraordinary and external evaluation of the integrity of
judges and prosecutors starting with the superior council of magistrates and the superior council of prosecutors. And this is already ongoing. And
Moldova already has gone up in multiple indices on press freedom, on rule of law, on respect for democratic rights and institutions. And, you know,
we are determined to do this for our own people.
GOLODRYGA: And final question. What are the consequences if, in fact, you aren't granted EU membership? You are a neutral country, as we mentioned.
Highly dependent on other countries' aid. Russia has threatened to cut off gas and oil to any so-called friendly countries to the West. What are you
most worried about if you aren't granted membership?
GAVRILITA: You know, what we are worried about is that people will lose confidence in the country. And migration which is already a quite -- a
strong phenomenon in Moldova will increase. And we will see further brain drain and we will see Moldova remaining, sort of, a gray area with a fight
between different forces in a, you know, a place of political instability.
So, we are very much hoping that we will receive this perspective. You know, this will give confidence, both to our people, but also to potential
investors. We very much need this confidence to get through the tough times that have been brought on by this war.
GOLODRYGA: I just have to say, on a personal note, I wish you all the best and I wish the country all the best. That is the country where I was born.
I just returned after many years of having not visited. And continued success on your reforms. And again, thank you for all that you are doing to
help so many refugees. Really, putting a name for yourself on the map.
GAVRILITA: Thank you very much, Bianna, and you and CNN viewers are always welcome to Moldova.
And I am sure that we will overcome because we do believe that we are fighting for the right values.
GOLODRYGA: Well, Russia's war and the threat of nuclear dangers is keeping the world on edge. Ukrainian historian, Serhii Plokhy, assesses current and
past nuclear disasters in his new book, "Atoms and Ashes". And he joins me to discuss the risks of Russia's actions.
Serhii, thank you so much for joining us to talk about your new book, "Atoms and Ashes". Very timely. It gives the viewers a little bit of
history about yourself, your background, where you grew up, and what you experienced. But also your expertise and explaining to viewers, really, the
history of nuclear energy and nuclear resources and some of its tragic failures in the past and some of the accidents. You talked about everything
from Three Mile Island to Chernobyl to Fukushima. What made you want to write this book now?
SERHII PLOKHY, AUTHOR, "ATOMS AND ASHES": Well, first of all, I come from Ukraine. I grew up in Ukraine, so to speak, in the shadow of Chernobyl. A
lot of my friends took part in dealing with the cleanup work at the Chernobyl. And some of my students were recruited into the army and sent as
(INAUDIBLE) records to Chernobyl in '86, '87, '88.
So, it was a very personal story for me, the Chernobyl story. And a few years ago, I published a book on the history of the Chernobyl accident
using previously unknown documents, including the former KGB files.
And when I presented that book to my American audience, to international audience, in general, the voices that I heard or the questions I heard were
that, well, do you think it's only the Soviet Union who is so bad at managing nuclear energy and has been engaged in the cover-up? Think about
our governments. The suggestion was, of course, to think about the governments in the democratic world. And I didn't know the answer, at least
I didn't have a good answer to that -- to those questions.
And I decided to write a book comparing the accidents and also comparing the ways in which the governments deal with the nuclear energy. In the '50s
and '60s, we see that engineers and scientists in different countries struggle with this technology. They have to take risks. They don't know
what the outcome of those risks would be.
And then another thing is that when something happens, something as terrible as a major nuclear accident, it doesn't really depend what country
we're talking about. People really don't like to either deliver bad news or to hear bad news.
GOLODRYGA: Right. And I remember distinctly hearing about Chernobyl in 1986. My family immigrated from next door, in Moldova. We still had family
living there at the time. And I remember my parents frantically calling my grandparents in Moldova and telling them about this because they weren't
aware of it. They had no idea as, you know, you just described, and you described in your book.
You grew up just a few hundred miles from Chernobyl. You have two children who you had to protect from the accident there. What was the impact on your
family and, to this day, I would imagine there are still health concerns that you fear and you face?
PLOKHY: Back in the summer of 1986, certainly, we kept our children indoors for almost the entire summer. And the recommendations were not
coming from our own government. The recommendation was coming from the voice of America or BBC, so the -- what soviet citizens called voices. And
those voices, actually, cared about us much more than our own government.
I also distinctly remember a moment in May of 1986 when I learned at work that the water that was contaminated by the explosion was approaching the
city where I lived, my family lived, at that time. The city of Dnipropetrovsk, today, it's called Dnipro, it's shortened. And I looked at
the people around me, I looked at the streets of over -- wonderful city of close to one million people thinking that in one or two days, it can be a
dead city because if the contaminated water arrives there.
Eventually, the worst didn't happen. The -- whatever contaminated particles were there, they ended up at the bottom of the Kyiv Sea, one of reservoirs
in the upper part of Dnipro.
But I certainly remember the horror.
GOLODRYGA: 36 years later, a different government, a different regime, some things changed, some things don't. Former KGB agent has now been
president of Russia for more than 20 years. Illegally invades your home country, a sovereign nation, and Russian troops early on into this war sees
Chernobyl and the plant itself. What went through your mind when you saw those headlines?
PLOKHY: Unbelievable. Unbelievable. Never, never in my life I could imagine anything of that kind happening. So, as to all the war, this
unprovoked war with attacks on the major cities in Ukraine, starting with Kyiv. The discriminatory shelling of major centers, including the centers
like Kharkiv or City of Mariupol where more than 40 percent of the population before the war were ethnic Russians.
Now, the cities in which people speak mostly are Russian. And this about the country that came allegedly to save those ethnic Russians and Russian
speakers. And then, on the top of that is Chernobyl. It's -- the war that - - the takeover of Chernobyl and then of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Southern Ukraine, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, and
that's close to the place where I grew up. That really underscored the barbarity of that war.
GOLODRYGA: Because that is still an active. Zaporizhzhia is still an active nuclear plant. Obviously, Chernobyl is not but there are still
dangers associated with Chernobyl. But now, especially, with Zaporizhzhia. Aside from the inhumanity and the immoral acts from the Russians and
illegal acts of invading a sovereign nation, how concerned should the world be about these nuclear facilities in the hands of Russian?
PLOKHY: Well, very concerned in general, because this is, for the first time in history, that the war comes to the side of operational nuclear
power plants. So, there were attacks at the plutonium producing facilities in the Middle East, in particular. There were attacks on the nuclear power
plants by the rebels that nuclear power plants that were not operational yet not completed. But this is the first time in the history when we see an
army taking over nuclear sites, waging war on the territory of those nuclear sites.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, there was a firefight exchange. I remember that this was a couple of months ago. And that led to a lot of concern about whether or not
these facilities were in the right hands. Were there experts on the scene there? Because we've seen just from the ineptitude of the Russian troops
and their inability to disregard some of the command coming up from the higher chains that if this is a reflection on who is now manning these
nuclear facilities, there was real concern about safety. Not only for Ukraine and around the plant, but for all of Europe as a whole.
PLOKHY: Absolutely. I want to add that there was not enough concern. Because the concern lasted maybe for one day or two, and then the attention
moved somewhere else. When in reality, we are still in a very dangerous situation.
First of all, the operators functioning in the conditions are really -- they're hostages. Second of all, the war didn't end. And we see again and
again a footage of the Russian cruise missiles flying over the remaining nuclear power plants under Ukrainian control. So, there is a possibility
still. It's not like return the page. There is a possibility of a major, major nuclear accident as long as the war in Ukraine continues. And we are
not prepared to deal with this situation at all.
GOLODRYGA: So, in terms of how the world, How the IAEA should view Vladimir Putin and fear of his control over these nuclear reactors, would
you equate that with the concern and, rightly so, for any actions from the Iranians or North Korea? I mean, have we reached that point where Vladimir
Putin should be in that circle?
PLOKHY: Well, I think we're beyond that point because in the cases that you just discussed, North Korea and Iran, there was a potential danger.
Here there is a very clear and present danger of conducting war on the territory of the nuclear sites. And when it comes to radiation, there is
very little impact on the human body. There is very little difference between the nuclear bomb and the dirty bomb that the reactors can be turned
And we heard a few weeks ago a very strong language coming from President Biden, in terms of the response that would come if Vladimir Putin would
decide to use nuclear arms. In my own personal opinion, the same kind of language should be used and the same kind of discussion. And the same kind
of consequences should be in terms of the -- bringing the war to the nuclear sites. Because again, as I just said, in terms of the impact of the
-- on the human body, radiation is radiation no matter where it is coming from.
GOLODRYGA: I've heard many experts say that it wouldn't be concern for humanity or moral, you know, persuasion that would convince Vladimir Putin
not to use a nuclear weapon, whether it's tactical, nuke, or larger. But it would be what he would view as a threat to Russia or, you know, more likely
a threat to himself and his regime. Do you agree with that assessment?
PLOKHY: Yes, yes, I agree. We quite often hear questions where Vladimir Putin would stop. And my answer is always the same. Vladimir Putin would
stop wherever he is stopped. And this is true in terms of the warfare on the ground or conventional warfare. The use of the nuclear weapons or the
threats or the -- really, President Zelenskyy called attacks on the nuclear power plants, nuclear terrorism or if you're talking about nuclear weapons
or about nuclear terrorism. So, yes, only strong response or potential responses can stop that from happening.
GOLODRYGA: Wow. Well, Serhii, as you look into the future, as a historian, based on what you know about past wars and how they've come to an end. How
do you see this war ending in your home country?
PLOKHY: Well, one thing that we know that wars can last for a long period of time, but eventually they come to an end. And I really, am impressed and
amazed by the spirit of Ukraine, Ukrainians, Ukrainian people in general.
The plan was to destroy the state. To deny the right of nation to exist, because denazification was really meant deukrainianization. The question of
the borders, unfortunately, will be decided on the battleground. And they - - a lot depends not just the Ukrainians, but a lot depend on the support that Ukrainians get today. And I certainly hope will continue to get in the
future to fight back that aggression.
And the war will end wherever the border is. With this, certainly, victory for Ukraine, moral victory, victory of the democratic system that is there.
And I certainly have no doubt in that. When that will happen, this is a much more difficult question to answer.
GOLODRYGA: Well, we can all agree on one thing is we hope that it's sooner rather than later. We know that hundreds of Ukrainians are dying now by the
day as the fighting there intensifies in the East. Serhii, thank you so much for joining us to talk about your new book and the situation there in
Ukraine in general. We appreciate it.
PLOKHY: Thank you. It was a pleasure.
GOLODRYGA: And finally, tonight, this Sunday marks Juneteenth in the United States commemorating the end of slavery. Even after President
Lincoln declared all enslaved people free on paper with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, some States didn't follow it. It wasn't until the
19th of June in 1865, two years later, that the order was enforced. And many of the enslaved learned of their freedom. This is the second year
Juneteenth as a federal holiday after President Biden signed it into law last year.
And Happy Juneteenth to all. Well, that is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast, and across social media. Thank you so much for
watching. And goodbye from New York.