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Interview With Climate Scientist Friederike Otto; Interview With Former Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC); Interview "Killer In The Kremlin" Author And Journalist John Sweeney; Interview With NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired August 08, 2022 - 13:00 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.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
GOLODRYGA (voice-over): The largest climate investment in U.S. history. I speak to former Republican Congressman Bob Inglis about its impact and his
mission to convince his party to confront climate change.
Then: Another heat wave hits Europe, as forest fires drive carbon emissions to record levels. Climate scientist Friederike Otto connects the dots
between rising temperatures and extreme weather .
And a real risk of nuclear disaster. The world's nuclear watchdog sounds the alarm after continued Russian shelling in Ukraine threatens Europe's
largest nuclear plant. I will speak with investigative journalist and author of "Killer in the Kremlin" John Sweeney about the latest on the war
in Ukraine and why he thinks Vladimir Putin is weaker than most people believe.
BILL NELSON, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: They could go to the south pole of the moon, where the resources are, and they could land and they could say, this
is our exclusive territory. You stay out.
Former U.S. Senator-turned-NASA Director Bill Nelson talks to Walter Isaacson about space diplomacy and how China could seek ownership of the
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
President Joe Biden emerged from his COVID isolation and traveled to Kentucky today to visit families hit by catastrophic flooding. Now, this
isn't the first time the U.S. leader has traveled to sites of extreme weather, but it is the first time he will be able to tell the people that
Washington is about to make its biggest investment ever to tackle rising temperatures.
The Senate this weekend pass the Inflation Reduction Act, which tackles everything from health care to climate. The House will soon follow, and it
could be on Biden's desk by the end of the week.
The president spoke to reporters about it just before leaving Delaware.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: To what extent do you expect the inflation bill to help Democrats during the midterms once it passes, Mr. President?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Will I expect it to help? Yes, I do.
It's going to immediately help. For example, no senior will have any -- on Medicare -- will have med -- bills of more than $2,000 for drugs, no matter
what the costs are. That's a big deal. It changes people's lives. There's a whole range of things that are really game-changing for ordinary folks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Notably, the bill includes $369 billion dollars in climate and energy provisions.
Former Republican Congressman Bob Inglis support some of that legislation. As the executive director of republicEn, he is determined to get more
conservatives to support green energy.
And he joins me now from South Carolina.
Congressman, thank you so much for joining us.
So the most significant piece of climate legislation passed the Senate without one Republican vote. Why, in your opinion?
FMR. REP. BOB INGLIS (R-SC): Well, because it was a reconciliation process, which basically is a jam-down.
And so Republicans have done it. Democrats have just done it. It's never a pleasant process if you're in the minority. So it was impossible, really,
for any Republican to vote for it, based on that process.
GOLODRYGA: But going into this, I mean, climate change and provisions tackling climate change had been a top priority for this president. And
there seem to have been some Republican support to tackle that.
Are you saying that these are just some budgetary issues that stood in the way for Republicans to showcase to Americans and their constituents that
they were in favor of a bipartisan legislation that's this significant?
INGLIS: Well, no, if it had been freestanding, in other words, if it had not been through the process of reconciliation, which is -- like I say, is
And both parties have done it in the past, and the Democrats have just done it. But if it hadn't been that, if it had been a freestanding climate bill,
with these credits for nuclear and hydrogen fuels, for example, with the expanded credits for wind and solar, those things probably would have
gotten some Republican support.
Because I'm sitting here and looking at what a tweet from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, warning that Democrats want to pile on giant tax
hikes. He also said that this will just help rich people buy luxury cars.
So, when you're talking about Republicans who support some of these tax incentives, where are they if their leader doesn't seem to be?
INGLIS: Well, if you go back and look in the legislative record about votes, for example, on expanded wind and solar credits, you will find some
very conservative Republicans voting for those things, people from places like Iowa and Texas.
The reason? Iowa and Texas have a lot of wind and solar. And so that's spreading. Those renewables are spreading through those credits here in
America. And the result is that they have a constituency of support among Republicans.
But when you couple it up with some other things and put it in a reconciliation package, that's just too much. It's really too much for any
minority, whether they're a Democrat minority or a Republican minority, when you run something through reconciliation. It's really a rough -- it's
a rough way to treat the minority.
GOLODRYGA: So if Republicans were in favor of these tax credits, how would they have proposed to pay for them?
INGLIS: Well, that's the thing about us as Republicans. We're usually happy with credits because they just effectively reduce the tax burden. And so
we're usually for that, right? And we take the position that that's going to improve the economy and make up for the fact that the Treasury is giving
up money through the credits.
So, that's why the credits are usually attractive, not just to Democrats, but also to Republicans. But when you couple them with the other things
that were in this reconciliation package, and particularly just use the process of reconciliation, then it's basically -- it is a cram-down, and
that makes it hard for any minority.
GOLODRYGA: So let's talk about what in this bill you like, and then we will get to what you don't like.
What in this bill appeals to you?
INGLIS: Well, especially the expanded support of nuclear energy, the supportive of hydrogen energy that's in there, the expanded support for
wind and solar. All of these things are good. And, like I say, if they were freestanding, I think they would gather Republican support.
I will point out, though, that, at republicEn.org, we don't think they're enough. It's a good start to do those things. But what they're basically
doing is making credits and tax advantages available in America which will help us clean up our local air. But until we get the world in on this,
we're not solving climate change.
And so it's why we think that a carbon border adjustment, where it's possible to basically put a price on the carbon dioxide that China emits in
making stuff that they're sending to us, when we do that, then we will be getting the world in on this thing.
But until then, we're doing good things by these credits here in America. We're going to clean up local air, maybe drive down the cost of the
technology, such that it can be afforded worldwide. But the real prize will be making this go worldwide through some kind of carbon border adjustment
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And that's something that the U.S. had tried to tackle in Paris. And President Trump obviously got us out of the accord. President
Biden put us back in. And perhaps this legislation having passed will put the United States at the forefront in tackling this issue, which, as you
know, requires universal participation.
But having the world's largest superpower leading the way would actually be a good sign.
It's interesting. You talk on the issue of carrots vs. sticks, right? And it appears that carrot seemed to lead the way and to have driven a lot of
what pushed this particular bill and the incentives for consumers.
You, in 2008, along with many Democrats for years have been pushing for a carbon tax, however, more of a stick approach. Why were you an outlier on
this front? And why do you think -- listen, there are Democrats that don't support this either. Why do you think this doesn't sit well in Washington,
INGLIS: Well, because it's maybe a little bit too transparent.
To some extent, we don't want to know the cost of these interventions. It sounds strange to say, but, really, I think it's true. We, as citizens, we
don't want to quite know how much it costs. Just do it and don't tell me what it cost. That's what regulations do. They're very expensive, actually,
but we don't see the cost.
So if you do a carbon tax, you're making it real clear. And that's politically hard. But here's the thing. It's the best last way to make it
so that you can collect that same tax on Chinese imports, making it in their interest to do their own carbon tax.
And then you have got the whole world following the American lead and solving climate change. Until then, what you're doing is you're cleaning up
local air, which is a good thing to do. But you're not yet solving climate change.
So the thing is, as you said, it is crucial for the America, the indispensable nation, to step up and solve this. But we may be trailing
behind the European Union on that border adjustment. They will -- they're talking about doing it in 2023. And if they do, then we're going to see the
power of that mechanism, because if you send in stuff into the E.U., into Europe, you have to pay a carbon tax.
INGLIS: So that behooves you to have your own carbon tax, because which would you rather, pay a carbon tax to them or pay it to your own
And so that's the mechanism that makes it in the interest of trading partners to follow the lead.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, and this is something that we will talk about with the -- in our next segment with our next guest, with a European climate expert.
But let me get to what you don't like in this bill.
GOLODRYGA: Namely, what?
INGLIS: In the climate provisions, the thing that probably -- I'm a Republican and conservative -- I probably wouldn't go for if I were still
in the House, wouldn't go for the prevailing wage provisions, basically making all the work be done at union wage scale.
That's sort of hard for us as conservatives. I'd be a little bit squeamish about the 40 percent set-aside of the block grants, because that's sort of
an arbitrary number. It probably came from the campaign trail more than from any sort of reality.
And so those two things are problematic. But, overall, the climate provisions in this package are really pretty good. It's just that, when you
do it through reconciliation, you can't expect anybody in the other party to join you.
GOLODRYGA: So, with all due respect, this is all wonk talk. And I'm sure there are many viewers who would appreciate some of those issues that you
take issue with, right?
But on a larger scale, given the significance in the dollar figure attached to this bill in addressing climate change and the health care subsidies,
right, I mean, this is significant. This is extending subsidies for people who get health care through the Affordable Care Act for another three
years, allows Medicare to negotiate with drug companies over prices for some of its most expensive drugs.
And, as we heard from President Biden, most notably, it establishes a $2,000 out-of-pocket cap for Medicare recipients. Do you think, looking at
where we are now and the upcoming midterms, that the Republicans missed or dropped the ball here in not signing up for something that really does
affect and is popular with many, many of their voters, whether Republican or Democrat?
INGLIS: Well, I noticed that, what was it, seven Republicans voted to override the parliamentarian's ruling on that cap on diabetes out of
GOLODRYGA: The insulin, right, yes.
And what you see there is, yes, the politics you're just describing, is that they don't want to be on record as opposing that. But, of course, they
had problem with the whole process.
I was in Congress when Republicans took over the first time since years. Back in 1994, we took over at that time. And we did reconciliation, and it
created the same problem on the Democratic side. They said, listen, you're just jamming this down our throats. That's what reconciliation is.
And so when you put it all together in that kind of a package, you're saying, we don't have enough of a majority to pull this off, except barely.
We don't expect any help from you, the minority. We're just going to jam it.
And so that's the process that we have got available to our parties. But when they do it, it drives us further into partisan squabbling, really.
But, at the end of the day, we're getting some good climate provisions here. So it's -- I can't be too upset about that.
INGLIS: But I do hope that we go from this to the bigger thing, which is, OK, we have done something here in America. That's great.
But climate change is a global problem.
GOLODRYGA: Right. Got to take it internationally, yes.
INGLIS: Yes. You have got to get the world in on it in order to solve climate change. And that's the next big step.
GOLODRYGA: Well, that is exactly what we're going to be talking about.
You teed us up well for our next conversation.
Congressman, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.
Well, listening to that is climate scientist Friederike Otto. She was -- and here to talk about that, another heat wave scorching Europe and
wildfires driving carbon emissions to record levels. Otto's pioneering research has enabled scientists to draw causal links between climate change
and extreme weather events.
Friederike Otto, welcome to the program from London.
First, I just want you to get in -- to weigh in on what you just heard from our previous conversation, a Republican congressman no longer serving in
Congress, but applauding some of the provisions in this bill, but saying that it requires obviously a lot more than just the United States.
How do you respond to that?
FRIEDERIKE OTTO, UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD: Well, of course, that is true that, ultimately, in order to, as he was saying, repeatedly solve climate change,
we need to stop burning fossil fuels globally.
But that requires one of the biggest fossil fuel-burning countries that the U.S. still is, and definitely historically is, to really go ahead and not
only lead with an example in a moral sense, but show that you can have a prosperous economy that you turn towards a carbon-free economy.
And while there's a lot still missing, of course, I think that is a way more important step than carbon border adjustments and trying to convince
other countries to join in immediately.
I think, well, it has been calculated for the U.K. that, even if the U.K. would be the only country going to net zero, it would still benefit the
U.K. economy. And similar things will be true for the U.S. as well. And so I think, therefore, that is the most important thing towards mitigating
GOLODRYGA: So let's start there. I wasn't I wasn't planning on it. But you just brought us there with Boris Johnson, the former prime minister, who
will be leaving office very, very soon now.
He made commitments to net zero, but you also have a potential successor now, Liz Truss, who is planning to temporarily scrap that green levy. What
do you make of that? And how significant of a step back would that be?
OTTO: I think it would be -- it would be a real step back and. It wouldn't be a step back politically. It would be a step back economically.
It's not as if the U.K. is -- is in a fantastic economic position at the moment. And everything that is suggesting that goes away from the net zero
plan will not benefit the economy and will definitely not benefit the people. It will just increase the huge cost of living crisis that we
already have here in the U.K.
So the only people that might benefit are the ones who really don't need any more benefiting. So, yes, I think -- it's a really sad thing to watch.
GOLODRYGA: Worrisome? Worrisome, in your opinion?
GOLODRYGA: Worrisome, in your opinion? Is it indicative of what we could also see from other European countries?
OTTO: It's definitely worrisome for the U.K.
I'm -- I don't think we will see that anytime soon from any other European countries, because it is already not doing the U.K. any good. And I think
other European countries see that very clearly.
GOLODRYGA: The reason I ask that, obviously, is because, prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, many European countries and then the E.U. as a whole
had been a leader in moving towards some of these clean energy provisions and living up to their commitments in the Paris Climate Accords.
But now, obviously, things have changed. The world has changed. Much of Europe's energy and gas resources, I don't have to tell you, come from
Russia. And given that that has now been stymied and the E.U. just this past month or last month labeled natural gas and nuclear power as green and
sustainable energy sources, it does seem as if the calculus has changed on European leadership part.
Obviously, this is Vladimir Putin's doing. That having been said, there are some consequences here that many climate activists are worried about.
OTTO: Oh, yes, and I'm absolutely worried about.
And that is a -- that was a terrible setback to label natural gas as green, as green energy. And, of course, there are worrying things happening in
Germany at the moment, where coal-fired powered plants are being switched on for longer than was planned. And so it might delay Germany's exit from
All these things are very worrying. And what we see with the crisis in the Ukraine is, again, that we are not trying to solve the crisis together,
which we should do and could do, because one of the big problems, of course, of the war in Ukraine is energy prices.
And by now investing faster, even faster than before in renewable energies, that would be a really important way to help, actually, with the cost of
living. And we -- yes, we don't see this. You're absolutely right. We don't see this in current policies.
But I also think we see still a lot of voices and loud voices that say this very clearly, that it's stupid to go back and to continue this dependency.
And I think, actually, the bill in the U.S. could be one sign to say, well, actually, maybe we should listen more to these voices.
GOLODRYGA: Let's look at what's in this bill just to show our viewers right now, $60 billion toward clean energy manufacturing, $60 billion for
environmental justice,$27 billion for a green bank to accelerate funding.
Now, we should remind our viewers that President Biden came into office pledging to cut carbon emissions by 50 percent, based on 2005 levels, by
2030. This bill, by estimates, would take us down to 40 percent, so still rather significant.
What stands out to you the most? And what are you most optimistic about when you read through the specifics in this legislation?
OTTO: Well, I haven't read through all the specifics in detail.
GOLODRYGA: Well, the bullet points.
OTTO: But I think what stands really out to me, and what I think is one of the most encouraging aspects is the emphasis on climate justice, because
climate change -- and we have always -- the whole time now, we have talked about mitigation.
And, of course, we have to stop burning fossil fuels to -- in order to address climate change. But we also have to think about the fact that
climate change is not something that will happen in the future. We are already in a changing climate.
And at the moment, it's those with the least economic means that are paying the bill for the cost of climate change. And that is not only true
globally, that the global South is paying them. But it's also true for definitely in the U.S.
So it's those -- the poorest in society, who are still suffering from the consequences of, say, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 or Hurricane Harvey that
clearly has been much more damaging than it would have been without climate change. And these bills are not paid by those who can pay them and those
who can afford insurance, but they are paid by those who can't.
And by emphasizing climate justice, I think, it's really important that this has been drawn attention to, because in order to deal with the
consequences of climate change -- and we have to deal with them, no matter how fast we cut emissions -- we need to increase equality and equity across
societies, and not globally, but also within societies in order, to help people dealing with the consequences and being able to be more resilient to
changing extreme weather events.
GOLODRYGA: And, listen, we're living it every single day. We report it every single day, from the historic flooding in Kentucky, to the droughts
in Mexico, obviously, the extreme weather and the heat in Europe earlier this summer.
I'm just curious, from your perspective, how much worse is it going to get? And are you surprised that, even at these horrific rates that we're seeing
these catastrophes around the world, that there hasn't been a larger response, a bigger mandate and urgency to address this?
OTTO: I think it is a bit surprising that there is still all the emphasis is on mitigation and on -- which is, of course, important -- and on
renewable energies and so on, but very little emphasis on decreasing vulnerability and increasing resilience to these changing -- to changing
risks and -- yes, and increasing the damaging disasters that are connected to extreme weather events, because, as you say, it's not something that we
read about or know intellectually is happening.
We are all experiencing it, so, even -- yes, even in London, where the U.K. always thought it's one of the countries who really have not a lot to fear
from climate change. People have been dying for decades because of the increase in extreme heat. And the same is definitely also true for the U.S.
GOLODRYGA: Cop 26 -- let's try to end on somewhat of a positive note, though factual.
COP 26, as we all know, was not a success. No major headlines came out of it. Do you think this legislation here in the United States will give a
boost, perhaps, to what we can expect out of COP 27 later this year?
OTTO: Well, I think I'm an hopeless optimist. So I would say it's definitely a step in the right direction.
But what was really, really, for me, and I think for many, many people across the world, the largest disappointment in Glasgow was that, up until
the very last day, there was financial aides to deal with loss and damage from climate change as part of the Glasgow pact. And at the very last
minute, that was turned just to only technical support, so more talking.
And I think, because this year's COP has -- is happening in a year that has -- that is seeing so many weather- and climate-related disasters, and just
we all see just how large the bills of loss and damage already are, that I think, if we -- yes, it hopefully will give a big boost to emphasize
adaptation and decreasing vulnerability addressing loss and damage.
GOLODRYGA: Well, we will take that bit of optimism. We need it.
Friederike Otto, thank you so much for your expertise. We appreciate it.
OTTO: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Well, we are at risk of a nuclear disaster, those chilling words from the U.N. watchdog, as shelling in Ukraine edged closer and closer to
Europe's largest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia.
Ukraine accuses Russia of launching rockets to the area and wants additional sanctions slapped on Vladimir Putin for what it calls nuclear
terror. And Russia has now notified the U.S. that it will temporarily withdraw its own facilities from inspections under the START treaty.
Investigative journalist John Sweeney is all-too-familiar with Putin's tactics. He's out with a new book on the Russian leader called "Killer in
the Kremlin." And he joins me now.
Welcome to the program, John.
So this is not the first time we are talking about potential catastrophe at the Zaporizhzhia power plant. Just a few months ago, there had been
shelling around that plant as well, and the IAEA had been sounding alarms then too.
Why do you think Russia continues to make such dangerous steps that could not only impact Ukraine, obviously, but Europe at large?
JOHN SWEENEY, AUTHOR, "KILLER IN THE KREMLIN": You have got to understand, Bianna, that Vladimir Putin, who has been, as a teenager, something like
when he was 12, he found a mentor who changed his life.
And this mentor was a gangster, when he ran a mixed-martial arts club which Putin went to in Saint Petersburg. And when this mentor died, on hi
gravestone, the phrase was, I am dead, but the mafia is immortal.
We're dealing with the crime boss of the Gambino family or somebody like this. And what he likes to do -- and this is absolutely part of his
playbook is -- to threaten terrifying violence. And one of the things that Europe and the whole world is afraid of is some kind of nuclear disaster.
So I think what's happening in reality is that the Russians and the Russian army, the Russian killing machine is failing. It's not doing very well.
They have reversed out of the battle of Kyiv. They lost that. Then they went to the east, and they got the Luhansk county or oblast, yes, that's
true. But that costs them an awful lot of Russian blood and treasure.
They haven't yet got -- secured the Donetsk oblast in its entirety. And Ukrainians have made them fight very, very hard for that. But then the
American long-range rocket artillery, the HIMARS system, I think it's changed the game, and it's blasted these 12 major Russian ammo dumps.
And so what I think we're looking at is Putin trying to frighten Europe, trying to frighten the world by saying, we can shell these places. Now,
practically, these nuclear power stations are very, very strongly built. Yes, I know about Chernobyl. I write about it in my book.
But that was a massive internal disaster, because the actual design of the reactor was wrong, and the Soviets knew about it, and they suppressed it,
rather than tackling it. That's a problem with this kind of system, because it's not a democracy.
GOLODRYGA: But any system, I would imagine -- any system, I would imagine, would not be built to sustain continued rocket attacks.
I mean, no one would imagine that the fact that there would be a war ensuing where you have Russian troops, not only infiltrate the facility,
but also it appears now focusing on, strategically, at least, as you are saying, to garner the threat towards the rest of the world, attempts to
sabotage a nuclear facility.
SWEENEY: Yes, but what he's doing is he's trying to generate fear. That's his playbook. Do not mess with me. Do as I say, or you will suffer. And
GOLODRYGA: Is it working?
SWEENEY: Well, I think the Ukrainian army beg to differ. And the Ukrainian army and the Ukrainian people are saying, we know who you are, we know what
you are like, and we are standing up to you. And obviously, this is kind of worrying. But there are a number of reasons, which set out in my book, that
I think that Vladimir Putin is a fragile monster. And I don't think that his strategy is working. I think it's a catastrophic mistake for humanity,
for Ukraine, for Russia, but also for Vladimir Putin's grip on power.
Now, let me take you through some of those reasons. First of which is Alexei Navalny, who is the effective leader of the opposition. He's locked
up. He's a great critic of Putin. He's a great critic of the war. And yet, he's still alive. Vladimir Putin could kill him like that, but why not?
Because Vladimir Putin is afraid of having him killed in prison. Because people -- he fears that people in Moscow and St. Petersburg will rise up
and say, what are you doing?
GOLODRYGA: But why do you --
SWEENEY: Secondly --
GOLODRYGA: Can I just push back on that?
GOLODRYGA: Even Navalny's own team had said, as soon as this war began, that Navalny's life was at his greatest risk yet since he had been arrested
once he returned to Russia. Because if there was ever a time for him to be killed in prison, it would be then. That they also did not believe that
Vladimir Putin would go this far and invade Ukraine.
And that having been said, where you're talking about the people on the streets in Moscow and Leningrad, you know, revolting and outrage. Yes, they
came out in support for him when he came back to Russia, but we don't see that many people on the streets there. We know there's a lot of
suppression, but we don't see that many people even at the height of their protest in the early days of this war out protesting against the Kremlin.
SWEENEY: The point is, Navalny is still alive. So, that Putin -- if he was all-powerful, he could have him, you know, he's his great adversary,
Navalny, and he still alive. That to me suggests weakness, not strength. Secondly, he hasn't called for universal conscription. And again, the
reason for that is he is afraid that people in Moscow and St. Petersburg will say, why on Earth are you sending my 18-year-old son for your stupid
And so, time and again I've seen this at the -- on the outskirts of Bucha in early April. You know, the people -- the Russian soldiers we saw weren't
ethnic Russians. They were Dorians. Russian Mongols from --
GOLODRYGA: Ethnic minorities. Right.
SWEENEY: Yes, exactly. So, he is not using the -- so, why is that? The reason, again, I think, is because he's afraid. Because if he calls for
universal conscription, moms and dads in Moscow and St. Petersburg will say, we're going to protest against this. We do not want our sons to go to
And there is a series of things like this. I also think that if, for example, Putin hits the nuclear button, I do not believe that button will
work, because I think the Kremlin machinery doesn't like this war. And is unhappy with him.
We also hear that the -- the gossip is, the CIA have said to the Russians, if you use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine, things will not go well
for you. What they specifically said is that we will target Russian military places with masses of conventional cruise missiles in a way that
will humiliate Putin and the Russian killing machine without escalating to nuclear.
So, we are in a game of threats with somebody, who, I say in my book, is he's not just a killer, he's a serial killer. He's pathologically
enthralled to violence and to threats. And he threatens again and again and again. And if we give him what he wants, he will only ask for more. And I
think what we're looking at here withing the nuclear story, yes, it's alarming, but at the same time, it's part of his playbook. And the best way
to see the end of this war is to give the Ukrainian army and the Ukrainian people the money and the heavy metal they need to defeat the Russian
GOLODRYGA: Is the war, in your point, in your opinion now at an inflection point as we see continued fighting there? Obviously, in the east, we are
seeing Russia now regroup and sent some of their troops to the south there as Ukraine is trying, steadfastly, to reclaim some of that territory that
Russia has taken, specifically around Kherson.
There have been analysts that say perhaps now with the high mars and the additional support, both financially and militarily from the United States,
largely, that this is an inflection point, a turning point, for the Ukrainians. Do you agree?
SWEENEY: I think there will be one soon. But I also think the Americans are supplying Ukrainians with the ammo and big long guns. And the price of that
is the Americans are saying to Ukrainians, please do as we ask you to do. And the Ukrainians are complying, partly because they've got no choice.
But the American policy on this is softly, softly. What they are trying to do is, I mean, I think the other day they have announced a billion dollars
in defense aid.
SWEENEY: But normally, normally, it's less than that. $700 million. They are saying to the Ukrainians, you can't have our best jets. You can't have
our best tanks. You can't have our best-armored personnel carriers. That's a deliberate policy. What they're trying to do is to prevent Putin from
seeing one single piece of aid or a piece kit as something which will allow him to escalate to a new threshold of violence. And that's a deliberate
American policy if you study it.
I don't necessarily agree with it. I just think the faster you destroy the Russian killing machine, the faster Putin will be in trouble, and then we
can hope there is a new Russia and there's somebody far better. Let's hope so.
But the American policy is consistent and, I think, smart. So, what they're doing is they're making it much more difficult. What it is is they're
boiling the Russian frog slowly. They're not dumping the frog in the heat. They're slowly turning up the heat again and again and again.
At some point -- it will point and at some point, the Ukrainians will get Kherson. I think they'll get it back and then they'll move further east
they'll move south. I say this because I know my Ukrainian friends have such -- their spirit is so high. Their morale is so high compared to the
GOLODRYGA: Well, there's another miscalculation as we close here on Vladimir Putin's part as well. He thought he would get Kyiv in three days
and here we are six months later.
SWEENEY: Yes, so --
GOLODRYGA: Just --
SWEENEY: -- the longer the war --
SWEENEY: The longer the war, the worse it is for Vladimir Putin. He's a fragile monster.
GOLODRYGA: We'll have to leave it there, John Sweeney. Thank you so much. We appreciate your time.
Well, political tensions on Earth between Russia, China, and the United States have spilled into space, with China currently assembling its own
space station and Russia planning on doing the same. International cooperation in the thermosphere is deteriorating. NASA Administrator Bill
Nelson talks to Walter Isaacson about the U.S. approach to space diplomacy and the spectacular findings of the James Webb telescope.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Bianna. And administrators Bill Nelson, welcome back to the show.
BILL NELSON, NASA ADMINISTATOR: Thank you so much, Walter. It's always a pleasure to be with you.
ISAACSON: So, the news this past week or two is how the Russians are continually saying, all right, they're going to pull out of the
International Space Station in the next few years, partly because of the situation in the Ukraine and the bad relation. What do you really think the
status of that is?
NELSON: Well, of course, the United States government position and President Biden especially is that it is horrible what's going on in
Ukraine as a result of President Putin. But we've actually almost been through this drill before, and it goes back to the middle of the Soviet
Union in the Cold War when in the midst of that hostile standoff of nuclear weapons, we found a peaceful connection with then the soviets, now the
Russians, in the civilian space program.
For in 1975, a soviet spacecraft rendezvoused and dived toward the American spacecraft, and the crews lived together in space. And that has continued
all the way to this day where we built the International Space Station together starting in the late 90s, after us visiting the Russian Space
Station, Mir. And today, that professional relationship, friendly relationship between cosmonauts and astronauts, it continues.
ISAACSON: We've got three Americans on the space station now and three Russians, and I think when Italian. So, you know, if you were listening to
the show and you wanted to send a message about how this is still part of international cooperation, you know, what message is that?
NELSON: What I've been saying all along, even under the former regime. And that is, we both continue to act in a very professional and friendly manner
in running the International Space Station. We, the United States, intend to keep the station going until 2030. Until we can then turn over to a
commercially built space station, the low Earth orbit activities. So, that we, NASA, can concentrate our activities on the program on the moon,
getting ready to go to Mars.
ISAACSON: One of the contracts you have with this potential new space station in 2030 is with Jeff Bezos. You have a contract with Elon Musk's
company, SpaceX, to send American astronauts to the current space station and beyond. Are those the type of entities that will end up building
commercial space stations that NASA will contract and use?
NELSON: Yes, and many others. There is a lot of commercial activity. Another company called Axiom is actually sending private astronauts to the
space station now in order to acclimate them to the beginning of a commercial space station.
So -- but there are many other companies that are doing this. And the commercial program doesn't stop at low Earth orbit. We have commercial
landers going to the moon with NASA scientific payloads that we basically contract for their service, their lander, it's much cheaper for us. But
it's information that we need, for example, we've got one that's going next year that's going to dig at the south pole to see if there's water
underneath. That's our instrument digging. If there is water, there's rocket fuel, hydrogen, and oxygen.
ISAACSON: You're talking about the south pole of the moon?
NELSON: South pole of the moon, that's correct.
ISAACSON: China is building its own space station. I think in the past couple of weeks they sent in a module up. Do you think we're in a race with
China or do you think you could do with China what your predecessors did in 1975 and say, let's work together on space exploration?
NELSON: I wish we could, and Lord knows we've tried, but China has been crickets. They are very secretive. You saw that when they send a 23-ton
empty rocket that is uncontrollable. It's tumbling back to Earth, and they won't share any data about where it's going to land. They've done this
twice now. Plus, you go back to 2007, they sent an anti-satellite rocket up, blew up an old satellite, put tens of thousands of pieces of space junk
up, and threatened a lot of people's satellites as well as the space station. They are very, very secretive.
ISAACSON: You've written, you said, we must be very concerned that China is landing on the moon and saying it's ours, stay out. That that's going to be
a problem if they get to the moon -- back to the moon, I should say, first. What are we going to do about that? And why haven't we signed the U.N.
protocol about the commercialization of the moon?
NELSON: Well, for example -- I mean, I could go on and on. China, just is unwilling to respond. So, the protocol that you're talking about, I think
you've got it a little miscommunication here. It's called the Artemis Accords. It's something that we started. It's a set of principles that are
common sense principles. 22 nations have signed up to it, most recently Saudi Arabia.
And what the principles say is, our reasons for going to space our peaceful. When each other is in trouble, we will come to help each other.
We're going to have commonality of instruments so that if we got in trouble, we could exchange. We're going to look to surfaces of celestial
bodies, to your question, the moon, and for peaceful purposes that can be used by all. Now, do you remember what China has done with the Spratly
Islands? Suddenly, they've taken them over. This is our new territory and you stay out. We don't want that to happen on the moon.
ISAACSON: What could they do on the moon? Do you think they could, sort of, colonize it and use it for military purposes?
NELSON: I can tell you what they can do. They could go to the south pole of the moon where the resources are, and they could land and they'd say, this
is our exclusive territory, you stay out. And we not going to let that happen. But that's what I've said. I haven't said they're going to do it. I
hope they can be talked out of it. But I'm certainly painting the scenario that that's something that they could try because they've already done it.
In other words, we don't want the south pole or the moon to become the Spratly Islands.
ISAACSON: So, suppose we get to the south pole of the moon first, you know, in the next few years. You got a program to do that. What do we do when we
NELSON: We make it open to all international participants, just like we've done with our International Space Station.
ISAACSON: You have a Space Launch System called the SLS, it's part of the Artemis Program, and it's pretty much is run by NASA rather than a pure
commercial endeavor. You have contracts, like, with Boeing to do parts of it. It's going, if I may say so, really badly. What's the problem there?
NELSON: It's not going badly at all. As a matter of fact, we're going to launch on August 29th. It's the first --
ISAACSON: But didn't you have to pull back the Boeing rockets? And hasn't it been at least a year or two behind schedule? Your predecessor said they
should just shut it down.
NELSON: Well, it's more than a year or two behind schedule, but so was the James Webb telescope. It was 10 years behind the original schedule, and
look what it has done. Walter, all of this boils down. Space is hard. This is tough stuff. This is technical gee-whiz stuff. And so, to, we are going
to launch the largest most powerful rocket ever. It's the first test flight, No humans on board. We always tried to do that.
And then two years later, we will launch the first crew to the moon. And then a year after that we will go into lunar orbit and rendezvous with a
lander and we'll go down, in late '25, land and bring the crew home safely.
ISAACSON: That's a pretty complex system for 2025 getting to the moon. It requires both the system, you've talked about, and then a rendezvous with,
I think, a SpaceX-built lunar lander. Are you pretty confident that by 2025 we will do it?
NELSON: Yes, and there again is another example of sharing the exploration of space with commercial companies. And for example, on the first
competition, we're getting this lander at half the price. SpaceX won the competition. We are going to have another competition for a similar lander.
And so, that we'll two landers that we'll be able to choose from as we are landing on the moon.
ISAACSON: You got reauthorized, congratulations, Sir, this past week or so, inside the CHIPS Act. Does that legislation give you what you wanted? And
tell us what we all spent a lot of time focusing on production of microchips, that part of the act. Tell us what's in that act that's going
to help NASA.
NELSON: When you say it that way, reauthorized, it sounded like I've been reborn, and I'm ready. NASA is in a new era. This is the golden era of
space exploration. And yes, that law, memorializes in law such things as the space station all the way to 2030.
A bunch of knits and knots, technical things that were needed. And if the NASA bill is attached to the competition bill, the competitiveness act,
which is primarily aimed at us being competitive in the international arena, specifically with China, on so many things but not the least of
which is chips. The silicon wafers of being able to have them produced here in the good old USA instead of in China.
ISAACSON: You know, China's announced a whole lot of breakthroughs in quantum technology, including things that would be able to use satellites
in space for encrypted telecommunications. Is that why you see the CHIPS Act and the NASA reauthorization and things going together? What are you
worried about there?
NELSON: You answered your own questions. The short answer is yes. You, not only want to protect yourself from a manufacturer that may want to do you
harm, from a defective chip. But you also want to make sure you have the available supply. Look what these small chips do to our economy. They're in
everything. They're certainly in your cellphone. They're certainly in your car. They're in your refrigerator. Even your washing machine.
So, it's necessary to the American style of living, indeed the world's style of living, in almost every day aspect of every moment of our waking
lives. We want those chips manufactured here so that we have that available supply. And a secure supply.
ISAACSON: In some ways, it seems to me the most inspiring about space exploration is answering the really big questions. Like, how did this
universe begin? So, tell us, what are you learning from the James Webb telescope? And how does that justify us going into this space?
NELSON: Well, there's always this quest that we have to try to understand. Who we are, where we are, what are we in this vast cosmos known as the
universe? Now, we have a telescope that is so perfectly designed with such precision, that we can look back and have already looked back, over 13
billion years ago. It will go back as far as 13 and a half billion years. And we know that the universe is 13.8 billion years ago when it all began.
What we are learning, just think of the enormous distances. Light travels at 186,000 miles per second. That light that we have captured in this
telescope has been traveling for 13.1 billion years and it will go back to 13.5. Now, that's enough to blow your mind right there. But with the
precision of the telescope, we are seeing how it formed. The first gases, the first dust clouds, the swirling that occurred that, eventually, things
start forming, and then they start bumping and crashing into each other and start forming objects and the galaxy, and then this galaxy is crashing into
I just saw a picture yesterday, it'll be public very soon, of a galaxy that has been hit by another galaxy and how it looks after that galaxy. Many,
many, many millions of light years away. So, these are some of the things that we're going to learn. But we're going to learn things that we don't
even know what questions are. That's how exciting this whole thing is.
ISAACSON: Administrator Bill Nelson, thank you so much for joining us.
NELSON: Thanks, Walter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Administrator Nelson sold those upcoming images so well. I can't wait to get a look at them.
And finally, from the stars above to what lies beneath. Earlier in the program, we discussed the heat waves scorching Europe. Well, in Italy, it's
made part of the country's longest river dry up, leading to a surprising visit from the past. This unexploded bomb from World War II was found on
the bed of the Po River, containing 530 pounds of explosives.
It caused a bit of panic over the weekend. The Italian army evacuating some 3,000 people before moving and detonating this dangerous piece of history
on Sunday. Thank goodness no one was hurt.
Well, that is it for now. You can always catch us online on our podcast and across social media. Thank you for watching and goodbye from New York.