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Interview With Nikita Khrushchev's Great-Granddaughter And Historian Nina Khrushcheva; Interview With Former U.S. Ambassador To Russia Thomas Pickering; Interview With "The Untold History Of The Biden Family," The New Yorker and The New York Times Investigative Reporter Adam Entous. Aired 1- 2p ET
Aired August 31, 2022 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. And welcome to "Amanpour". Here's what is coming up.
Our special show on the life and legacy of a historic figure, Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union. His impact on Russia and
the world with Nina Khrushcheva, who joins us from Moscow. Historian and great-granddaughter of Nikita Khrushchev. Plus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKHAIL GORBACHEV, FORMER SOVIET UNION PRESIDENT (through translator): History is a fickle lady and you can expect surprises from history. But I
do know that I did what I did and that I can be proud of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Gorbachev in his own words. We look back at my revealing interviews with him. Then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: How this Soviet leader forever transformed Russian U.S. relations. I speak to the former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow, Thomas
Also, on the program. The untold history of the Biden family. Michel Martin talks to Adam Entous about the highs and lows faced by the president's
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
The tributes have been pouring in as the world marks the passing of Mikhail Gorbachev, who died last night at 91. A titan of the 20th century. He was a
lost leader of the Soviet Union. He raised the iron curtain along with his American partner, President Ronald Reagan, ended the cold war. Words such
as perestroika and glasnost entered our lexicon with him as Gorbachev economic reforms and political freedoms. He reflected on these when he
resigned on Christmas day, 1991, as the very last president of the USSR.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKHAIL GORBACHEV, FORMER SOVIET UNION PRESIDENT (through translator): Society got freedom. It became freer politically and spiritually and that's
the main accomplishment of ours, which we haven't realized so far. And that's because we are not used to use freedom yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And as we all know, that journey is still underway. Britain's Iron Lady, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, back then was the first
western leader to recognize Gorbachev as someone they could all do business with.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARGARET THATCHER, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF THE UNITED KINGDOM: He's a bold, a determined, and courageous leader. And I hope that he succeeds in
his colossal task. For in doing so, he will enlarge the sum of human freedom and happiness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: But it was his relationship with then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan that was truly transformative. Pulling the world back from nuclear
disaster as they made a series of arms deals and drew their nation's closer together.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REAGAN: General Secretary Gorbachev, you've declared that in your own country there is a need for greater glasnost or openness. And the world
watches expectantly and with great hopes to see this promise fulfilled. We've been talking of openness and promising truth. You've called on the
deepest hungers of the human heart. Hunger shared by all, whether they be Soviet or American or the citizens of any nation on Earth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And all of those values are playing out today on the battlefield of Ukraine. Allowing the Berlin Wall to fall, and East European countries
to break free of the Soviet bloc was perhaps Gorbachev's greatest achievement. And 10 years later, in November 1999, I spoke to the president
about how he came to such momentous decisions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Mr. President, 10 years ago, for us westerners, it was a triumph to see that wall come down. The end of tyranny. The end of communism. But
you were a committed communist. How did you feel, personally, when you saw them tear down that wall?
GORBACHEV (through translator): By that time, I had changed my mind about many things. And in 1988, I came to the conclusion that the system could
not be improved. We needed political reform and more freedom. Freedom of choice. Political parties. Give people some oxygen.
AMANPOUR: How did you feel yourself, watching that wall come down?
GORBACHEV (through translator): You know, there's a lot of talk about the wall. But for me, as a politician, it's just a moment. It's a sign. A
symbolic event. The wall had been built when confrontation reached the very acute stage and we began abandoning the confrontation. By that time, we
were meeting with President Reagan, he said, he was not claiming the Soviet Union was an evil empire anymore.
Since we gave freedom of choice to the Soviet Union to countries of Eastern Europe, how could we deny the same right to the Germans? They proved they
learned hard from the terrible war. They became a truly democratic nation.
AMANPOUR: Did you know that it would lead so quickly to the fall of communism all over Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union?
GORBACHEV (through translator): You know the model that had been implemented in the Soviet Union and forced on East and Middle European
countries after the second world war, lost. But I'm still devoted to socialism. If you think of socialism as freedom, social justice, democracy
where individuals play a significant role, look at Western Europe, most of them are run by social democrats. And there's nothing wrong with it.
AMANPOUR: Was there any risk and using force to stop these Germans doing what they were doing? Was there any risk that the Soviet Union would
intervene to keep East Germany whole?
GORBACHEV (through translator): No, that was still out of the question.
AMANPOUR: Mr. President, you are regarded by many people in this world as a hero for causing the end of tyranny and the collapse of communism. But you
are also criticized heavily by those who say you opened a Pandora's box. And they say, look at the strife now. Look at the economic chaos. Look at
the mafia structure. Look at the corruption. They say that you opened and started a plan that you did not know how to finish.
GORBACHEV (through translator): That's an accusation of pygmies. I did not accept it. I can give you the following answer. First, there are no lucky
reformers. We had a concept, give up totalitarianism, lead society to freedom, political, ideological, and religious pluralism. Economic freedom,
too. So, we didn't know where we are heading. But when such developments get underway, no one can predict significantly what it will lead to.
Imagine Russian history. 250 years of Tatar control, more than 150 years of Serfdom, almost 80 years of communist totalitarian regime. And abandoning
it does not mean you become free right away. One has to learn how to have it. Who can predict that? No one. No science can do that. History will
Look at how the west was teaching Russia market reforms. Just that one thing, and see how they got mixed up. And look what we have in Russia as a
AMANPOUR: You blame the west?
GORBACHEV (through translator): Absolutely. The west was pressuring us, forcing its will through the IMF and other experts. Of course, it was able
to find counterparts in Russia. Boris Yeltsin wanted to solve everything within two years and make Russia the most prosperous country in the world.
That is utopian thinking, and it is more dangerous than communism.
We're lucky if they were just wrong, it happens. But what if the plan was to force their reforms that would make Russia helpless and keep her half
strangled? Sometimes I do think that way. Though I think they don't realize that Russia is very dangerous in such a state. For itself, for Europe, for
the whole world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, Russian state media is saying that President Gorbachev's will be -- the funeral be on Saturday, and there will be a ceremony aligned
in state where people can go and pay their last respects on that today, too. Now, Gorbachev's not-so-distant predecessor, Nikita Khrushchev, put
the Berlin Wall up in 1961. His great-granddaughter, Nina Khrushcheva, is an author and professor of international affairs, and she knew Mikhail
Gorbachev. And she's joining me now from Moscow.
Nina Khrushcheva, welcome back to our program. Let me just ask you, because you knew Mikhail Gorbachev, and it just seems that his death -- it was not
unexpected. He was 91 years old and he was ill. But to come today in the midst of this massive upheaval in your country, what -- how do you react to
NINA KHRUSHCHEVA, HISTORIAN AND GREAT-GRANDDAUGHTER OF NIKITA KHRUSHCHEV: Well, it's incredibly symbolic. It just feels like it's the end of the era.
It's the end of -- complete end of the era that he has built -- to try to build that he put forward. The era of glasnost and freedom and openness and
human rights and peace and potential prosperity. Sort of things that we came to rely on. We came to understand as a normal thing, as a real thing.
Easy to travel. Easy to do business. Easy to make friends elsewhere.
And now it has come to an end. And therefore, his death becomes incredibly relevant. If he died, say, 10 years ago, it would be a historic death. But
now it's a contemporary death because it does feel, for people like who loved Gorbachev, who thought that -- I mean, he's responsible for my life
in America because he said it's a free country. Do whatever you want to do. And I applied for graduate school, which really would be unheard of before
his time that a Soviet person would just apply regularly to an American university.
So, now it has come to an end and it feels that he failed -- we failed him because we didn't really preserve his legacy. And only hope because he
really came out of Khrushchev. I mean, he himself said all this glasnost, perestroika, the new thinking. These are the words that were used by
Khrushchev first in the 1960s. maybe another 30 years from now, 20 years from now, hopefully earlier, another Gorbachev would come along. But it's
unfortunate for those of us who actually witnessed now the demise of his legacy, at least at this point.
AMANPOUR: Well, let's talk about how permanently that demise is. But first, I want to ask you because you mentioned Khrushchev, that happens to be your
great-grandfather, who, as I said, put up that wall that Gorbachev allowed to come down. When you say he was a bit of a mentor and an example for
Gorbachev, what do you mean? Because we know that Khrushchev used the word thaw. What happened and why didn't he achieve what he wanted to achieve?
KHRUSHCHEVA: Well, because it is a despotic system. I mean, it's a -- Gorbachev tripled on that system. In fact, in your interviews, which is
really very interesting, he talks about freedom and democracy and everything. And then in '99 or maybe '12, I forgot whichever he says, well,
the west is guilty. The west has been forcing us and we are -- maybe it is a plan to weaken us.
Ultimately, even the best leaders. Even the most democratic Russian leaders come to have this despotic kind of mentality that we are besieged forward,
something that Putin uses a lot today. And instead of freely developing, instead of getting better, it's very difficult because ultimately, they all
start looking for a guilty party. And the guilty party is often the west.
So, that happened to Khrushchev. And then it did happen, although, after Gorbachev was already retaliated, it happened to him, that kind of
mentality. So, ultimately, the country of 11 time zones is something that is very difficult to develop democratically. So, that happened with the
Berlin Wall in 1961.
AMANPOUR: So, you mentioned that and he did say that. He was talking, mostly, I thought, about the IMF and the shock therapy and the, you know,
the economic advice that they were getting from the United States of that time. And that, of course, leads to part of his legacy, which is the
controversial part, right? That many people in, what was the Soviet Union, feel traumatized, still, by the chaos of the post-Gorbachev years, so-
called, the freedom years. Do you think that his legacy will be a negative one in Russia itself?
KHRUSHCHEVA: Well, if I'm looking at Khrushchev, which is -- could be one of those comparisons, because they're both performers, as imperfect as they
were. Although, of course, Khrushcheva was probably much more imperfect (INAUDIBLE). On the other hand, he -- at least for the time being,
destalinized Russia which was the most amazing thing that he has done.
So, Khrushchev does have a negative legacy. And Gorbachev has had quite a negative legacy, too, although, I think it's getting better. The worst
Putin gets, the more we appreciate the freedoms that Gorbachev brought. But also, I do want to say that he blamed the chaos on Yeltsin and they really
didn't get along and fought quite a bit. Although Yeltsin allowed him -- well, of course, allowed in, you know, in previous terms wouldn't have, but
it -- he had a Gorbachev foundation that was running. It was very similar to the presidential library.
Gorbachev was running for president in '96, which is really -- I mean, for Russia, once again, a despotic country, an amazing achievement. He had life
post-politics. But he, himself, it was his economic program that was called 500 days. Why do you want to have an economic change in 500 days? Can't you
just have five years?
So, it's the problem of all Russian leaders. They really want to jump across that abyss in one jump and then very surprised, then they break legs
or we break legs, the country break legs in the process of it.
AMANPOUR: Can we just go to what he was saying and what you've been saying, the idea of reform, of fixing a nation, that he said to me and he said to
many others, he could see that Russia was headed into a brick wall, into a dead end, into a dark tunnel unless it, in fact, did embrace properly
glasnost and perestroika.
So, where do you see it now? I mean, you're sitting in Moscow. We know that you are under the restrictions that the Russian government has put down
talking about the war. You're not allowed to call it a war. And there are a lot of people who are against -- what they call the special military
operation. Where do you think this is headed, both militarily and politically, for your nation right now?
KHRUSHCHEVA: Well, I mean, his death is really felt, and I was talking to friends about -- I mean, we talk about it all the time. And when Gorbachev
died yesterday, the whole night, I mean, there was all the phone calls, and also the civil society, liberal society that was left. Everybody was
calling each other. Because we do feel that his death is not a death of a 91-year-old person. It's a death of an era. It's the death of our hopes.
It's the death of the country that Russia, that he let us have.
And so, it really doesn't go anywhere good, because his death is that, kind of, last nail, a very fat nail in that coffin of freedom that we used to
experience. I can't -- I mean, I'm not a profit. I don't know. I can't create it. But so far, the military operation is going on. We've been
hearing from the Kremlin, it is going to achieve its goals which really give me horror and pause and, absolutely, nauseating feeling every morning
that I wake.
So, I think the country is not -- I mean, it really is going back in time. It is going back in time. And I think I can imagine that how Gorbachev felt
in the last six months. He felt horrible about Putin as before. But in the last six months, he the peace -- the Nobel Peace Prize winner of '99,
probably his heart was breaking every moment.
So, unfortunately, I do not have an optimistic mood right now. Because what I do know about KGB, and Putin is a man that came out of KGB, they really,
absolutely, need an absolute defeat of an enemy. And so, I'm afraid that that enemy could be Ukraine, that enemy could be us, that enemy could be
AMANPOUR: And when I spoke to Gorbachev for the last time in 2012, he described what was happening under Putin as imitation democracy. And this
was when Putin was reelected in 2012. But let me just -- I want to play something extraordinary for a Soviet leader or a post-Soviet leader. This
is Gorbachev in a pizza hut commercial.
KHRUSHCHEVA: Yes, '96.
AMANPOUR: Yes, I want to play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is Gorbachev.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because of him, we have economic confusion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because of him, we have opportunity.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because of him, we have political instability.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because of him, we have freedom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Complete chaos.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hope.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Political instability.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because of him we have many things like Pizza Hut.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hail to Gorbachev.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hail to Gorbachev.
CROWD: Hail to Gorbachev. Hail to Gorbachev.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I mean, there's so many layers to that. Just the ability to look inwards and allow himself to laugh and others to laugh. But a big message
there, obviously. I guess, my last question to you is, as a historian, he described his own family, his own parents as peasants. They literally
farmed what they lived on. What enabled him to go from that to this? To this icon of the attempt of freedom, this huge, Titanic figure of the 20th
KHRUSHCHEVA: Absolutely. But so -- I mean, I'm sorry to bring up Khrushchev again and he thought that Khrushchev was his, as I said, his mentor. A lot
of those words were used in Khrushchev's speeches before. Khrushchev was a peasant. He was dirt poor peasant.
And so, I think this -- in many ways -- I mean, it's a long problem we can't talk about it. But in many ways, the Soviet, the idea of communism of
Gorbachev was romantic. I mean, he keeps talking about social democracy but he was also originally a very romantic believer in communism. Because
communism, egalitarianism, allowing people to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, absolutely allowed that.
I mean, unfortunately, it was also a despotic system. But it wasn't out of -- how to say, it wasn't out of order for people to actually achieve
something that they were absolutely were able to achieve before the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. And he really absolutely met every single
promise that (INAUDIBLE) ever did and better.
AMANPOUR: It's really fascinating. Thank you for your special perspective. Nina Khrushcheva from Moscow. Thank you.
Now, the Russian reaction to the death of their former leader has been, as we've said, a little bit more muted. President Vladimir Putin sent a
message of condolence to the family. While his spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov says that, " Gorbachev's romanticism did not materialize."
President Putin has attacked Mikhael Gorbachev's legacy in the past for what he calls the disintegration of historical Russia. I spoke to
Gorbachev, again, in Chicago at a conference of Nobel laureates just after Putin's reelection in 2012. He was clearly worried about the authoritarian
tendencies that were taking shape inside Russia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Mr. President, many people call you the father of democracy. Certainly. many in the west and many in Russia. But many are also saying
that Russian democracy, if it is not dead already, is dying. Why is that? What went wrong?
GORBACHEV (through translator): Well, during the election campaign, a lot of critical things were said about democracy in Russia. And you are right,
there is a problem. But democracy is not dying. Because when 100,000 people, hundreds of thousands of people actually protest in the public
squares, when they demand free and fair elections, when they are ready to take risks for democracy, it means that it is alive. Because above all,
democracy is the participation of citizens.
However, the institutions of democracy are not working efficiently, not working effectively in Russia. Because, ultimately, they are not free. They
are dependent on the executive. They're dependent on what we call telephone law, the rule of the executive. And that is with the people are protesting
against. They want real freedom. They want real democracy. They want a democracy in which the peoples' voice is decisive.
AMANPOUR: In fact, you've called Putin's democracy, or the current Russian democracy, an imitation democracy. Do you think that President Putin is
committed to any kind of reform and will the peoples' voice be heard under his presidency?
GORBACHEV (through translator): I said on the eve of the elections that if the president and his entourage, in the future, will just continue to try
to fool the people with this imitation. That will not succeed. People are protesting and people might protest in much stronger ways if he just
continues his old ways.
I think it'll be hard for him, given his nature to do this. But there is no other way for him but to move toward greater democracy in Russia, toward
real democracy in Russia. Because there is no other way for Russia to find a way out of its debt and in which it is now.
AMANPOUR: In the meantime, about seven years ago President Putin said, "The collapse of the Soviet Union was the biggest geopolitical disaster of the
century. For the Russian people, it was a genuine tragedy." He's talking about what you did. How do you assess his assessment? Was bringing down the
Soviet Union the greatest tragedy of the 20th century?
GORBACHEV (through translator): First of all, he has a right to his own opinion and he is a right to speak out to say anything, whether positive or
critical, about me. I -- when I do not accept or do like his policies, also say that very directly. So, I think this is a very direct discussion, and
AMANPOUR: Do you think the collapse of the Soviet Union, which you engineered, is a genuine tragedy for Russia?
GORBACHEV (through translator): Well, you're stating that I engineered it?
AMANPOUR: Didn't you?
GORBACHEV (through translator): You will not find in any of my speeches until the very end anything that supported the breakup of the union. The
breakup of the union was the result of betrayal by the Soviet nomenklatura, by the bureaucracy, and also Yeltsin's betrayal.
He spoke about cooperating with me, working with me on a new union treaty. He signed the draft union treaty. Initialed that treaty. But at the same
time, he was working behind my back. And that, of course, is not, frankly, policy. That is, I think, deception.
And let me tell you that our friends, including our friends in the United States, they spoke very sympathetically about the need to preserve some
form of union. They said that it should be preserved. But at the same time, when the breakup started, they were rubbing their hands. They were rubbing
their hands, I would say, below the table.
AMANPOUR: Mr. President, can I ask you -- when I travel around the world and I go to places, let's say, from Iran to Cuba. And I ask them about
reform and democracy. They say, oh, my goodness. Look at what happened in Soviet Union. Look what Gorbachev did. Shock therapy, chaos. They see it as
What do you say when you hear authoritarian leaders like Castro or the Mullah in Iran, look at what happened in the Soviet Union. And say no, we
can't do that. We can't liberalize. We can't open up. It's too dangerous.
GORBACHEV (through translator): Well, chaos, that is, frankly, not Gorbachev's fault. I was against chaos. I, and many people and leaders who
supported me, wanted an evolutionary approach to reform. We wanted to do it step by step. We were against shock therapy.
It was Yeltsin and his government, the government of Gaidar, who adopted the policy of shock therapy, and it resulted in very destructive
privatization. It resulted in the kind of privatization that gave the property that used to belong to the entire nation to very, very few people.
So, those old guys who have been in power for 20 years and more, they should not attribute that to me. Why are they saying what they're saying?
That is because they fear democracy. They are afraid of democracy.
AMANPOUR: To many people around the world, you are a hero, a once-in-a- generation actor, who ended the Cold War. How would you like your people to remember you?
GORBACHEV (through translator): History is a fickle lady, and you can expect surprises from history, but I do know that I did what I did and that
I can be proud of what I did.
AMANPOUR: And you can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, in the fuzzy focus of the fall of the cold war, it is easy to forget the early 1980 saw a peak in superpower rivalry and nuclear
buildup. President Ronald Reagan's America was an implacable foe of the USSR.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REAGAN: Yes, let us pray for the salvation of all of those who live in that totalitarian darkness. Pray they will discover the joy of knowing God. But
until they do, let us be aware that while they preach the supremacy of the State, declare its omnipotence over individual man, and predict its
eventual domination of all peoples on the earth, they are the focus of evil in the modern world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, how did Gorbachev change the conversation about the evil empire? Veteran diplomat Thomas Pickering. He served in the Reagan
administration and later under Clinton as ambassador to Moscow and later to the United Nations. In other words, he's had a ringside seat to this
particular slice of history.
Ambassador Pickering, welcome to the program. So, take us back to the late 1980s, Reagan administration, a new leader of the Soviet Union comes to
Washington. What was the reaction in Washington? Remind us the effect he had on the U.S.?
THOMAS PICKERING, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Christiane, it was, in some ways, a reflection of what Margaret Thatcher had to say, that we could
do business with this man. Khrushchev did a number of things during that visit and other visits got out and shook hands with the crowd. Greeted
people. It had a tendency to do small things as well as he did large things in terms of building up his popularity and public interest in him.
And it came at a time when Ronald Reagan was also discovering that there was a serious nuclear question at hand. Were we going to avoid blowing each
other up and moving in sensible ways, or were we going to continue down a road where that particular possibility was enhanced and not pushed back?
And he chose the former, very wisely, with the help of George Shultz and others, and began a process of himself of deeply emerging in that kind of
thinking. And Gorbachev was, in many ways, a good counterpart for him in that approach to where we were. And it led, not just two conversations on
Geneva, and indeed Iceland. And questions about, can we get rid of these kinds of weapons, never achieved. But can we reduce them and build more
And that was part and parcel, I think, of how and in what way Reagan threaded very carefully the needle from really intense dislike of the
Soviet Union to something that was good in a partnership with Mikhael Gorbachev in finding ways to build a bridge between the U.S. and the Soviet
AMANPOUR: Ambassador Pickering, you heard perhaps and one of the earlier interviews I played just now that he got very cross, Mikhail Gorbachev, he
said that you know, the west had been arrogant that it had pushed them towards certain policies and especially political, rather, economic
I just want to ask you, as a diplomat, in the fullness of time, do you think that the United States, the west, acted, A, triumphantly? And B,
given what we're witnessing right now, you know, under Putin, is there any way the U.S. should have reacted differently to prevent this kind of
PICKERING: I think there are two things. I served under of Mr. Yeltsin when we were in a deep struggle together but from vastly different starting
points. To work out how and in what way the Russians would organize their economy.
And this led to a situation where both on our side and on their side. There were too many advisers and too many recipients, and too little central
strategic thinking about what the real policy impact of our work with Russia, both assistance and advice ought to be. And I think that was a
I think that we moved too rapidly, too precipitously, we had good reason. But I think, in many ways, it backfired on us. To expand NATO, it's a
constant subject of real commentary, and in some ways, deep differences still in where things are going.
I don't think any of these were responsible for Putin's invasion of Ukraine. That comes as a different time. And it came out of a different
theory of the case. But Mr. Putin is elaborate in finding ways to justify what I think is a huge mistake on his part.
AMANPOUR: So, what do you think happens next? Do you see any, again, as an American diplomat, who's -- your country has tried for decades, you know,
in the post-Cold War era, to get on a decent footing with Russia? And under Putin, it's been very difficult for any number of reasons and for many,
many years. How do you see the west fulfilling what it says its endgame is now, and that is, to prevent Putinism and Putin winning in Ukraine?
PICKERING: I think that that's a very difficult end game. I would, in a way, first think that we should elevate the objective and simplify the
focus. And the objective is obviously to avoid a global nuclear catastrophe at all costs. And secondly, simplify the objective by seeking to begin in
whatever way we can because it's some distance away. To prepare the ground for how and in what way we can take the opportunities when they arrive, and
they are not here yet, to terminate this war with Ukraine, and resolve it on the basis that obviously respects Ukrainian independence and helps to
AMANPOUR: You have seen many regimes come and go around the world. You've served under every president that I can remember. When you look at what
your adversary -- because that is what Moscow's right now, what Russia is, what it will look like, and whether it will meet Gorbachev's desire in his
promise of democracy. And what he said Putin had no choice but to, you know, but to pursue it. Because, otherwise, Russia's in a dead end.
Gorbachev writes, Russia has irrevocably chosen the path of freedom. And no one can make it turn back to totalitarianism. Well, that was his memoir in
the mid-'90s. Do you think that's still possible?
PICKERING: I think it is. Because I think that's Gorbachev, bless him and bless his memory, had a sense have a future for Russia that was part of the
globe. Not isolated off in a corner, fighting with its neighbors over issues that had long since passed and trying to remake history. Rather than
to construct a strong feature ahead.
Whether Mr. Putin will ever move in that direction and do so, it could be greatly rewarding to him and his memory. And it could be greatly rewarding
to Russia. But the chances now seem to be extremely tiny that that will happen. And one could only say, where Mr. Gorbachev or Mr. Putin, we would
have a vastly different world.
AMANPOUR: Yes, you can say that again. Ambassador Pickering, thank you so much for joining us from Massachusetts this evening.
PICKERING: Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Now, among the many tributes to Gorbachev, that of U.S. President Joe Biden, who called him a man of remarkable vision. And he said, these
were the acts of a rare leader. One with the imagination to see that a different future was possible. And the courage to risk his entire career to
achieve it. The result was a safer world and greater freedom for millions of people.
Now, like Gorbachev, Biden is very much a product of his family history. But one we know little about. Investigative reporter Adam Entous has looked
into the president's ancestors in a piece for "The New Yorker" magazine. And he told our Michel Martin what shaped the man in the oval office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Adam Entous, thanks so much for joining us.
ADAM ENTOUS, THE NEW YORKER, "THE UNTOLD HISTORY OF THE BIDEN FAMILY" AND INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Great to be here.
MARTIN: So, you know, Adam, honestly, this is one of my favorite kinds of stories which I call hiding in plain sight. I mean, meaning that Joe
Biden's been in public life for decades. And I think it's fair to say, we don't know any of this. You describe it as a rags to riches to rags story.
Which is kind of something that the president has alluded to when he's talked about his origins, you know, not that he does so very often. But
when he wrote about it in his book, you know, promises to keep.
How so? Like, in a nutshell, how is a rags to riches to rags story? Like, what's happened?
ENTOUS: Yes. So, basically, his -- Joe Biden's father is -- you know, his family is not rich, but they're connected to a family through marriage that
is rich, the Sheenes. They get rich, initially as war contractors in World War I. And then between the wars, they're in the gray vault business, and
they make a fortune making gray vaults and selling those in Baltimore and Washington.
And then during World War II, they make a far bigger fortune as war contractors, right? And then Joe Biden and Richard Ben Cramer, in their
books, don't really explain what happens. They just say, the money -- the war ended, and the money was gone, and then the family ended up in Scranton
without any money.
And that's the beginning of the story that we all know of Joe Biden, sort of, growing up, not poor but not wealthy, sort of, lower middle class, if
your will, in terms of income, and sort of the beginning of his climb back, I don't know know if you want to call it riches but certainly to fame and
greatness in terms of politics.
MARTIN: The Sheenes, like, what role did they play in the life of the Bidens? And why is, like, what happened to them so critical to this, kind
of, I don't know, head-spinning turns of fortune, if we can call it that?
ENTOUS: So, what you had is these two families are coming together through marriage. There are these two sisters, the Robinette sisters. The
Robinettes are a prominent family in Baltimore. They perceive themselves as, kind of, English aristocrats. These two sisters, one of them marries
Joe Biden -- Joseph Harry Biden, which is the president's grandfather. And the other one marries Bill Sheene Sr., who's from Boston. And the Sheenes
also believe that they are a prominent aristocratic family, right, with English roots.
ENTOUS: And so, you know, basically, these two families are sort of joint through marriage. The Bidens are sort of the lesser, in terms of stature,
in terms of finance. They are kind of a -- you know, I would say that Joseph Harry Biden married up when he marries -- you know, into the
Robinette and Sheene families. And the idea is, is that, you know, they are going to rise together, right?
And -- but the Biden's move, they move, initially, to Wilmington and then, later to just Scranton because Joseph Harry Biden, the president's
grandfather, worked for a company, Amoco, an oil company, and he was moved around. And he was like a salary man, very loyal to this company and he
never really made a lot of money any had a drinking problem and so, he struggled it. They lost their house in Wilmington.
But down in Baltimore, the Sheenes were making it rich and they were living large. And the president's father had this double life. At home, he didn't
really have much. But when he was in Baltimore with his cousins and his best friend, Bill Sheene Jr., the son of Bill Sheene Sr., the patriarch of
the family, he, you know, as the best polo ponies, he's, you know, driving the fanciest cars. They have private airplanes. You know, they have estates
that they go and stay at.
And so, you have -- you know, Biden's father sort of has kind of, you know, becomes -- you know, kind of -- something of an aristocrat himself. And so,
you know, basically the Bidens were kind of riding off the -- you know, on the coattails of this better off family. And they did that until basically
everything falls apart.
MARTIN: Why does it all fall apart?
ENTOUS: Yes. So, that was like the challenge, OK? Biden in his book, and Richard Ben Cramer, just say, it falls apart. They don't say how or why,
right? And I was curious, why does it fall apart, right? And Bill Sheene III, this is the living guy that I find from that family, he tells me his
mother would refer to the World War II business as blood money.
And I didn't really understand what she meant and neither did he. He just knew that she thought there was something inappropriate about the business,
right? And then, he told me that his dad would tell him that for years, the IRS would follow him. And I was again, like, OK. These are bread crumbs,
So, what I start to do is I go to the Maryland State Archive and they have these books which include IRS liens, tax liens. And I look for the Sheenes
in this book anid I find the tax liens, right, initially. And so, I can see that the IRS was chasing after them, right? And then, what I do is I go to
the National Archive in College Park, Maryland, outside of Washington. And I'm trying to figure out what actually happened, why blood money, you know?
And so, what I find is that they were getting big contracts from the U.S. - - the United States Maritime Commission. And I look at that chart and it's basically for companies that were found to have taken what they refer to as
excessive profits. And this was something Roosevelt was hot and heavy over. He would give speeches of it long before the war.
Basically, it's a remnant from what happened in World War I where there was the backlash, these people were lining their profits -- pockets, excuse me.
If you look at that chart, it -- they -- it's supposed to be around 8 to 10 percent, right? And I noticed when I looked at that chart that that
particular company had a like 48 percent profit. And so, then I was like, OK, all right. Now, I know why --
MARTIN: There were profit. So, they were accused of profiteering. Were they punished for that? Is that what kind of made the whole thing fall apart?
ENTOUS: Yes. They were punished for that. Basically, there -- it's -- you know, it's -- you know, they had to repay two thirds of their -- of what
they took. And so, what I can see now that I found out that was that, basically, the family was scrambling, the Sheenes in particular were
scrambling to basically repay this money. They had bought all these estates. And I was able to find, you know, in property records these
mansions. I mean, we are talking -- we are not talking about small mansions here. The one that they owned in Old Westbury was something out of Downton
MARTIN: But is there any evidence that Joe Biden's father was directly complicit in this conduct or was he sort of collateral damage?
ENTOUS: Honestly, I don't know. Certainly, he is not named as a party that I -- at least, that I was able to find where the government is coming after
him. I see the government coming after the Sheenes, right? I do not see the government coming after Joe Biden Sr.
But the implications are clear, which is that once the Sheenes basically had to give up everything they had, there was -- you know, Joe Biden, as he
writes in his book, you know, he had basically nowhere else to go. And then, the Bidens have to move to Scranton and start from scratch, right,
with menial work. You know, and -- you know, fixing boilers and selling penance at the free markets, right?
MARTIN: OK. So, you know, the other thing you point out is the alcoholism, obviously, is a through line. I mean, the president is not shy about
talking about the fact that he doesn't drink and he really encouraged his siblings not to drink and he encouraged his kids not to drink. And, you
know, we know how some of this turned out. We know one of his sons has a very, you know, difficult time with substance abuse. And we know that, you
know, Beau, his son, who died from a form of brain cancer did not. And so, this is kind of a through line, you know, through the family.
Does -- did he know about the travails that his family had had because of alcohol? Is that, you know, part of why he feels so strongly about it?
ENTOUS: Yes. I mean, I think that -- so, this is, again, something that is shared between the Bidens and Sheenes, right? Both of these families have
the same problem, which is like, you know, clearly inherited alcoholism, right, particularly on the male side.
And, you know, I think that -- is in some way, that's, again, where Eugenia, the president's mother, sort of plays this very important role in,
you know. distancing. So, after everything goes south at the end of World War II, right, and the years following, where the government is coming
after the Sheenes, they blame a lot of these problems on alcoholism. But basically, the lesson that comes out of this experience, that one that
Biden's grew up believing and hearing is not about the impropriety that befall -- that it -- that is involved in the company going south.
But the idea that the Sheenes drank them money away, that they basically -- that this opportunity that the Bidens and the Sheenes had for a life of
security and wealth and prominence was destroyed because of the weakness of some members who were drawn to drinking to excess.
And so, you know, when Joe Biden is -- you know, he makes this decision when he is young, that he's not going to drink, right? I've never -- you
know, he didn't -- he wouldn't talk to me for this story. So, I don't know -- you know, I mean, he said, like you mentioned, that he, you know,
decided at a young age, I don't really understand, you know, exactly why he makes that decision. Like, is he -- you know, he's -- basically, he seen
all these relatives undone by alcoholism, is there --
MARTIN: So, you know what, let -- so, let's take a step back for a minute, Adam. You uncovered these fascinating details about the president's
ancestors and their sort of journey to the American story. So, I guess, the question I have for you is that now, that you've uncovered this and
reflected on all of this, what does it say to you? Is it important? Does this matter?
ENTOUS: Well, I mean, you know, obviously, he is president, right? And having an accurate history of the president's past I do think is in the
public interest, obviously. You know, obviously, this was -- I was writing a narrative, right? And so, telling a story that, frankly, had sort of been
lost to history because, you know, people sort of took for granted that the story that had been repeated over and over again both within his family and
then publicly when he introduces himself as a presidential candidate, that the version that we were told was incomplete, right, very incomplete.
And so, providing an accurate -- you know, an accurate version of that history that helps shed light into what motivates and what -- you know,
what motivates the president. And, you know, frankly, as you know, this -- the issues with Hunter Biden played -- maybe not a decisive role in what
happens in 2020 election and it might have influence in the future election if his -- if Joe Biden decides to seek a second term.
You know, understanding again how the -- I would almost call it a family curse, you know, of alcoholism that ripples its way through the family. You
know, part of the exercise for me was talking to Hunter. And, you know, him thinking, I think, that he was something of an outlier, right? And
realizing, like, history just keeps on repeating itself.
MARTIN: You are peace ends, I have to say, on a very poignant note. I mean, we know what happened to the Biden side, right? The -- he becomes president
of the United States, very much helped by his sister Valerie, who has been a critical piece of his political campaigns. We know that his sons have had
kind of a -- and his daughter too, with Jill, Ashley, have had struggles of their own, which they addressed.
On the Sheenes side, you know, which had lived so large. I mean, do you want to share --
ENTOUS: Yes, yes. Absolutely. So, like, you know, obviously, I found that, you know, Joe Biden's older cousin who -- Bill Sheene III, an RV park in
Florida. After I went to the grave site and saw the correct spelling, I tracked them down. And so, yes, part of it -- part of the reporting here
was figuring -- I -- you know, I envisioned this story as East of Eden, y9ou know, that kind of a story. You have the Hamiltons and the trans,
right? And, you had the Bidens and the Sheenes, right?
And so, I was curious, like, what happened to the Sheenes, right? And frankly, what happened to the Sheenes is very similar to what happens to
the Bidens, right, which is they had no money after this. And their alcoholism is just ripping them apart, right? They are completely ravaged
And what happens is, is that some of the Sheenes move to Wilmington and they actually live not far from where Joe Biden grew up. And occasionally,
they would bump into Joe Biden at the supermarket or at a restaurant or a bar. You know, they would see each other in Wilmington. And the Sheenes had
this -- they would walk away from these encounters feeling that the Bidens wanted nothing to do with them. And that there would be an interaction,
according to one of the Sheenes, where she would say, hey, Joe -- when -- Senator Biden -- you know, I'm Trudy Sheene, you know, Bill III's wife.
And according to Trudy, Joe Biden would respond by saying, I know who you are. And then, that would be it. And there was a sense of coldness that the
Sheenes perceived, right? Whether that was intentional or not, I don't know. But it was certainly perceived by the Sheenes as this coldness.
And so, basically, what happened is, is the Sheenes watched as the Bidens rose to prominence while they themselves found themselves, you know,
ravaged again by alcoholism and poverty. And one side is rising. It's the opposite of what happens earlier, right, because it's the Sheenes that
bring the Bidens up in the prewar story. And in the post war story, it's the Bidens are rising and the Sheenes are falling. And the Sheenes, you
know, frankly, I think resent that the Bidens didn't want to have a relationship with them anymore.
And, you know -- and basically, what happens is, is Bill Sheen III dies. And then can't have -- they don't have the money to bury him at the
cemetery. And then, Bill Sheene III's daughter, Amy, has this quote that she tells me, which is -- you know, I asked her, like, how do you sum up
the story of the Bidens and the Sheenes? And it was -- it's the kicker, the last quote of the story. And she says something to the effect of, you know,
they ended up in the White House, and we ended up in the trailer park.
And so, you know, this is -- so, that's the way I decided to end the peace, with one family in the ashes and the other one at the pinnacle.
MARTIN: Adam Entous, thanks so much for talking with us about this. This is a fascinating report.
ENTOUS: All right. I really -- grateful to be here. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Finally, tonight, as we remember the life and legacy of President Mikhail Gorbachev, we also remember his wife, the formidable Raisa
A trailblazing Soviet first lady, always fashionable and always supportive at his side. From the White House to Cuba, she stepped out of the shadows
dedicating herself to charity work and to the public. When I spoke to President Gorbachev in 1999, his wife, his rock, had just died. And he
again spoke in the kind of personal terms we've never heard from a Soviet leader before.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: You recently suffered a personal tragedy, the death of your wife. She was your partner in every way. She supported your policies. How does it
feel to not have her here to celebrate the 10th anniversary of this triumph?
GORBACHEV (through translator): These are very hard times for Russia. I feel like my soul has been ripped out of me. Raisa was my close friend. We
spent almost 50 years together since we were very young. We shared our life. After Raisa's death, it showed, the press, thousands of letters from
Russia, some of them are read to Raisa. She cried and said, do I have to die to make that happen?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: 23 years later, may they rest in peace together.
And that is it for now. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.