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Interview With China National Association Of International Studies Director Victor Gao; Interview With Oxford University Professor Of Global History Peter Frankopan; Interview With Former Russian Diplomat Boris Bondarev; Interview With Silent Spring Revolution" Author And Historian Douglas Brinkley. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired November 28, 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 CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. And welcome to AMANPOUR. Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: (Speaking in a foreign language).
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AMANPOUR: Across China, rare demonstrations of defiance against severe COVID lockdowns. We explore what this could mean for the Chinese government
in the world. Then --
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BORIS BONDAREV, FORMER RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT: I delude that the solution of this current situation is to defeat Putin's army in Ukraine.
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AMANPOUR: A former diplomat faces the consequences of speaking out against Russia's war in Ukraine. I speak with the dissenter Boris Bondarev. And
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, HISTORIAN AND AUTHOR, "SILENT SPRING REVOLUTION": By 1980, with Reagan, environmentalism becomes seen as a democratic priority.
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AMANPOUR: Historian Douglas Brinkley explores the politics of environmental activism in America. In his new book, "Silent Spring
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Widespread anti-government protests erupted across China for the first time since 1989. In a rare show of defiance against the ruling Communist Party.
Demonstrations spread from Shanghai in the east to Xinjiang in the west, with thousands chanting, need human rights. Need freedom.
Protesters have been calling for an end to nearly three years of zero-COVID restrictions, and even for the removal of the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping.
They were triggered by a deadly apartment fire on Thursday in Urumqi in Xinjian. Videos appear to show that lockdown measures hindered
firefighters, keeping them away from the building. The blaze killed at least 10 people.
The Chinese government insists that it's zero-COVID measures are scientific and effective. Western health officials, though, question that. Including
Dr. Anthony Fauci who calls the approach very, very severe without seeming purpose. But with vaccine uptake low in China, a rapid exit from zero-COVID
could fuel a new surge in deaths. This leads the government with few good options.
What could all this mean in China and across the world? The former government official, Victor Gao, is director of the China National
Association of International Studies. And he's joining me now from Beijing.
Victor Gao, welcome back to our program. So, we know --
VICTOR GAO, DIRECTOR, CHINA NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: -- that there have been these unprecedented demonstrations which appear to have calmed for the moment. But what was your reaction, certainly
as a former government minister, you know, with your finger on the pulse, when you saw that?
GAO: Well, first of all, the unprecedented protests in Beijing and quite a few other cities in China on a Sunday night were very alarming because this
rarely happened in China. And for such protests to be, kind of, coordinated in different parts of China, involving a dozen cities or so, is also truly
I think the government needs to really go to the bottom of this. And to the extent that there are legitimate concerns expressed about excessive
lockdown measures, for example, then the government needs to make sure that remedial measures will be taken as quickly as possible.
Now, on the other hand, I also heard some of the chums (ph) in -- with political tones, which I believe, are completely detached from the
realities on the ground. And I personally do not support them. I actually, firmly oppose them. I believe maintaining stability for China is the mega
trend. It's the most important thing to ensure China's sustainable development.
AMANPOUR: So, Mr. Gao, you know, there's a famous quote. You would say that, wouldn't you? Of course, I understand that you oppose those protests
calling for the removal Xi Jinping, calling for more freedom.
But what is the governments option? You said that they must do something. They must get to the bottom of it. We pose the question of what will the
government do given that, you know, any sort of lifting or sudden lifting of restrictions could cause a massive outbreak. What is the government fear
GAO: Thank you, Christiane. This is a very important question. Before answering your question, allow me to make one brief point. Some of the
protesters were calling for human rights. I would advise them that actually the most important human rights as far as China's concerned is the life --
the right to life. So, without life, you lose every political rights you may want to achieve.
Therefore, as a result of the dynamic zero-COVID policy, China saved a minimum of one million lives, or even up to about 10 million lives. And I
reached these numbers using the U.S. death number as a reference point. After all, China's population is more than four times larger as that of the
So, whoever -- who are unhappy about the zero-COVID policy should be reminding themselves of a massive amount of lives that China has managed to
save over the past three years.
GAO: Now, you talk --
AMANPOUR: Yes. I just want to pick you up on that.
GAO: Yes, this is a --
AMANPOUR: Because clearly, many people feel that yes, yes, you're right. There were a lot of lives save compared to the U.S., Brazil, et cetera.
However, this is three years and they're feeling like life is being snuffed out. I just want to play you the sound from a protester in Hong Kong. He's
very concerned, you know, that he can't get back home. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HONG KONG RESIDENT: I am a victim.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How so?
HONG KONG RESIDENT: I cannot go home for many years, like, two to three years, right. My parents were locked down for three months. And even
relatives of my good friends, they suicide because of the lockdowns, right. And I know people die because of it. Because of the side effects of this
policy, right. I think everyone who has the same mind should say something or do something to stop this unreasonable social measure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, I mean look, at this all started -- you heard what he said, suicides and unreasonable measures after three years. And remember, we're
talking about three years now. And that fire in Urumqi is considered -- and the video seemed to suggest that the firefighters could not reach the fire
because of the COVID barriers that were outside. So, if you are advising the government, what would you say?
GAO: Well, first of all, China is right now in the middle of a transition from the original version of the anti-virus strategy which really focused
on minimizing deaths and infections to a new paradigm which needs to pursue two goals. One still is minimizing deaths and infections. But on the other
hand, equally important if not more important, to achieve higher level of normalcy of life for the people and restoring economic activities to the
normal cause of activities. Both goals are very important.
We try to pursue the first goal for the past three years. Now, is the time to make that big transition into pursuing two goals. Now, in making this
transition, it will involve a lot of uncertainty. Many difficulties. And this is exactly the time when the whole nation in China needs to be united
rather than accusing each other, for example, or even trying to bring in chaos or anarchy into China, which is the last thing that the majority of
the people in China want.
So, I think we need to be very scientific. We need to rally behind the government in making sure that China goes through the transition smoothly,
with less cost, with less deaths, and with less people getting infected in this transitional period.
AMANPOUR: So then, Mr. Gao, you said scientific -- you know, addressing this scientifically. One of those -- the main reason -- the main way, of
course, would be by vaccines. It's -- I mean, look, I'm just going to say. It's generally assumed that the Chinese vaccine is not as good as the mRNA
and the other stuff on the market elsewhere.
Why would China or not accept the vaccines that could actually help this phase two, as you're talking about. And why has there been such a low
uptake of vaccines particularly amongst the elderly?
GAO: Well, first of all, China was one of the first countries to successfully introduce vaccines at the very beginning of this pandemic. And
China has ever since then cooperated fully with WHO and shared its vaccines with more than 100 countries in the world. Now, for international
cooperation involving vaccine, I think it's a very important part of succeeding against this pandemic eventually.
China's policy is interesting, it emphasizes our reciprocity. For example, between China and the United States, or between China and Great Britain,
for example, we want to have reciprocity. That is, we mutually recognize each other's vaccines and we give mutual access to each other's populations
for using the vaccines on equal terms.
If, for example, one country refuses to acknowledge the Chinese vaccines, refuses to allow Chinese vaccines to be introduced to that particular
country, China will do the same. And in that sense, I hope cooperation will really be boosted between countries, among countries, especially between
China and western countries. Because this is surely, a good way to really arrive at great ultimate success of mankind against this pandemic.
AMANPOUR: Oh, I'm hearing what you're saying. As I just said, the Chinese vaccine is just not as good. It's been -- it's just been shown to be not as
good. Why would your government stand on that kind of weird pride while it is trying to save hundreds of millions of lives and open up? It needs a
scientifically proven effective vaccine. Why would it say tit-for-tat in this case? You said the most important thing was life and then, you know,
GAO: Well, first of all, I don't think pride is a matter in this whole situation. China has developed its own unique proprietary vaccines.
Cooperation with other countries to share other vaccines will be very helpful to China. I hope this would be done on a reciprocal basis.
GAO: And on the other hand, also please keep in mind, the virus keeps changing and no vaccine is perfect. And even if you have three dosages --
boosters after boosters, for example, you may still be prone to suffer from infections. So, I think no country should really let down their guards. All
of us need to keep improving our own vaccines and share information for international cooperation involving vaccines.
I hope China is moving in the right direction. And the more international help there will be, the better I will feel myself in the happier I will be
for the whole Chinese nation.
AMANPOUR: OK. All right. All right. Victor Gao, thank you so much indeed for joining us tonight.
And now, the Oxford University historian Peter Frankopan takes the broad view of what's happening in China. He's the author of "The Silk Roads: A
New History of the World". And he's joining me from Amsterdam.
Professor Frankopan, welcome to the program. I just wanted to ask you whether you had a reaction to that last statement about vaccines and about
why they may not allow, you know, the most of all vaccines to come in.
PETER FRANKOPAN, PROFESSOR OF GLOBAL HISTORY, OXFORD UNIVERSITY AND AUTHOR, "THE SILK ROADS": Well, it's a complete mystery -- I mean, it's madness to
turn away from the proven vaccines that we have over here. I mean, it's quite clear that the Chinese proprietary vaccines aren't as effective. And
that, I think, is a real problem about authoritarian systems is that when bad systems get made, it's very hard to turn them around.
AMANPOUR: So how do you think because clearly Victor Gao, a former government official, wants to see things turned around. And he said, phase
one was the zero policy. Phase two, we have to somehow come out of it in the safest possible way. How do you think they're going to be able to do
FRANKOPAN: Well, I mean, the obvious thing would be to -- well, as he himself said, not swallow any pride but to use the vaccines that are being
effective here and to roll them out. I mean, so to give it some scope, the Chinese government claims that 5,300 people have died from COVID. And that
relates to around about just over a million in the United States.
So, one of the challenges is that if you don't swallow your pride, if you don't start rolling out the Pfizer-BioNTech, the AstraZeneca, et cetera, et
cetera, then you are stuck with where you are. And the big problem, I guess in China, is that if the genie gets taken of the bottle, if you start
allowing people out of their houses, then you've got to prepare for the same level of mortality that you've seen everywhere else in the world.
So, the United States which has a difficult health system in lots of ways, but a state of the art on and others. If the same levels -- if the same
numbers of mortalities took place across China, some of the models suggest that that might be five million people dead. Because there are about 3.5
intensive care beds in China per hundred thousand population which is about four times less per capita than Singapore.
So, the big problem there you have is if you let people out and people start to die then it does -- the students protesting on the streets of
Wuhan, and Shanghai, and Beijing, do you -- are you opening up a much, much bigger problem. But -- I mean, the only way out of it is to be using
effective vaccines and to vaccinate properly.
So, even if the vaccines are more efficient as Dr. Gao said, then you'd think an authoritarian state where people do what the government tell them
and governments force them to do what they're told.
You'd think that that would be the first place on Earth where people would just get vaccinated whether they like it or not. And that doesn't seem to
have happened. So, it -- there is something like 80 million people in China over the age of 80 who haven't had a booster shot. And, you know, that does
may -- mean that the vaccine -- that means that the virus does mutate and it mutates in China and becomes increasingly dangerous.
So, I think like everybody, I'm scratching my head as to why it is that western vaccines aren't allowed in -- I mean, there was a -- when Scholz --
when Chancellor Scholz of Germany went to Beijing a couple of weeks ago, he didn't agree with the Chinese to allow the BioNTech vaccine to be
distributed to the expat community there, about 800,000 people. And I can't, for the life of me, understand why -- and in fact, it's not just a
Chinese problem, it's a global problem. You know, we need China to be open and its factories open too because we're directly linked to China's global
supply chains, manufactories, et cetera.
AMANPOUR: Well, I was going to ask you. I mean -- actually, first, when I ask you about the nature of the protest. Because as you heard, Dr. Gao said
he was shocked and somewhat disturbed. And he said, you know, the government needs to do some digging as to what the complaints are and how
to be able to answer the people. What was your interpretation and assessment of the size, the scope of these protests, even though it appears
that on this day, they have sort of faded away?
FRANKOPAN: I think in the midterm, what will happen is that the Chinese authorities, the Communist Party authorities will try to work out how did
they miss this? That, I think, is the real -- that's the real crackdown that comes towards us, towards the students. It's not the people
protesting. Because, I mean, after all, and what Dr. Gao might also say is that in the Chinese constitution, Chinese citizens have the right to
protest. They have the right to gather. They have the right to meet and to have freedom of speech.
And clearly, when you put lineup, hundreds, if not thousands of policemen to stop people from saying what they want to say, there is a challenge. So,
I think that the bigger question is how did these protests start in the first place? And that the story that were being spun at the moment in the
early stage of Chinese state media is that this is a color revolution that's being funded from outside.
And I don't think it'll take many viewers by surprised to know that, you know, it's actually traveling (ph) into China basically is nonexistent, so
it's quite hard to make these things. Catch fire from outside. But the real challenge, like I said, is if you have a decision-making process that shape
like a pyramid and it goes up to the top, then that's great. When things go well, then the leadership takes real credit.
But there's going to be a lot of soul searching to work out what system -- what point in the system fails to allow this kind of protests that aren't
just about vaccinations and being allowed out of houses, or about getting back to work and having food, which some of the chants have been about. But
they've also been about freedom, democracy, and in some cases, even criticisms of President Xi himself.
FRANKOPAN: And I think that that is a real concern.
AMANPOUR: So, are they in a bind and how do you think President Xi, given, you know, his, sort of, coronation at the latest party congress, third
unprecedented term. What does he -- where do you think he will come out. Saving lives or spurring on the economy? Is it a, sort of, a bind he's in?
FRANKOPAN: Well, I guess the first takeaway is how badly we analyze China from here in the west. You know, a month ago, we were talking about Xi's
absolute control over the whole country when the 20th Party Congress gave him an unprecedented third and made him effectively president for life. And
I think for us all here, we've got to wonder how it is that we also miss these things when we think about what China actually is and what it is the
Chinese people want to believe and will accommodate with.
So, I think that the choice is going to be very difficult. It's almost impossible to know what it is that Xi, in person, thinks and the politburo
likewise. But the -- a colleague of mine recently found something that Xi had written as a 35-year-old party boss after the Tiananmen Square
incidents and after the massacres of the students in 1989. Xi's conclusion was that more repression was needed. Censorship, the arts, and so on needed
to be shut up and shut down.
And as you said also, this comes at a very difficult time with relations with Russia as well. And so, the big driver in China has always been how to
avoid the fall of the Berlin Wall. How to avoid the dissolution of the Soviet Union. And this is the first, kind of, rumbling of something quite
dramatic coming towards Beijing.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, that's really interesting too. I just want to ask you because speaking to Professor Timothy Snyder of Yale awhile back, and he
basically -- you know, he was saying, particularly after the midterms, you know, Russia's in retreat. China has peaked. And I don't know what else he
said. Democracy is on the rise.
And now, we hear that on Friday -- rather today, that Chinese assets slumped, the Hang Seng Index topping two percent. It's been said by
observers that it is peaking, the economy and Chinese power. Do you agree with that?
FRANKOPAN: Well, everybody's been betting on the fall of China and the fall of Iran for decades. And, you know, I stand to reason that one day
they're going to be right. You know, I think it's very difficult to bet against the state that has almost exclusive surveillance which will
presumably tighten up because clearly students and others and protesters, journalists likewise, will be able to get news out and be able to
coordinate to some degree.
So, you know, it's -- nothing is impossible. But I mean, certainly, Tim Snyder is right that autocratic and authoritarian regimes can be suddenly
super fragile in what looks like positions of enormous strength can suddenly crumble. But there are major problems that China has to deal with
as, in fact, many parts of the world around energy, food, all the inflation repressions, property and so on.
I mean, I think one wouldn't read too much into how stock exchanges perform on a day-to-day basis. But those fundamentals, I think, we need to be
careful not to become -- to treat this is an article of faith. A believe that democracy is on the rise and autocracy is on the way down. I think
that those kind of things, they all sound great. But, you know, the revolution in Iran that some of us some -- that some people thought was
coming, you know, is also had the lid put back on it.
FRANKOPAN: So, it might well be that that's correct. I mean, as it happens, for most of the metrics, autocracies have got stronger globally
for the last seven years. And I don't see any sign of that suddenly changing just because of the protests in China over the last 42, 78 -- 72
AMANPOUR: I -- it's so interesting. And particularly in what you observed about how we keep getting the analysis wrong. It's really important to
remind ourselves about that. Professor Frankopan, thank you so much indeed.
Now, China's relations with Russia are evolving quickly after Russia launched its aggressive war in Ukraine. At first, President Xi pledged a
forever friendship with Putin, but with his war going badly for him, Xi has been somewhat more circumspect about that support. Until last spring, it
was my next guest job to help manage Russia's foreign affairs.
Boris Bondarev was a veteran diplomat station in Geneva at Russia's mission to the U.N. In May, he publicly resigned his post. Protesting the Ukraine
invasion which he calls, an unspeakable act of cruelty by his country. I asked Bondarev whether his resignation would influence other Russian
diplomats and how he sees this war ending.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Boris Bondarev, welcome to the program.
BORIS BONDAREV, FORMER RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT: Hello.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you, because you have -- you know, defected in terms of, you know, philosophically for several weeks now and you've written
about it. I want to start by asking you why this was the moment and for instance, not when your country invaded the first time in 2014. What was it
about this time?
BONDAREV: Well, the situation in 2014 looked quite different to what we see this year, unfortunately. And in that, many people and I, myself, we
didn't see this Crimea and Donbas thing as something as a sign of the growing menace to all mankind, so to speak.
For me, it was very surprising, of course, as I am sure for most of people on the planet. But yet, I thought that it was kind of ad hoc thing. So,
President Putin saw the opportunity and he seized it. And of course, in that time, I didn't believe that he would go further and further.
AMANPOUR: So, what is the menace to mankind, as you say, that you discerned in this second invasion? And only, by the way, three months after
-- I mean, it took you three months to figure out that menace to mankind.
BONDAREV: It did take me three months to figure out how I should better quit in which form. Should I do it public or should I just hand out my
resignation letter and go home or something like that. And if I decide to make it public then what would be the best way to do it and to ensure the
safety of my family and all. So, yes, it took me some time.
But the menace, I mentioned is this -- I think it's obvious, first of all, it's the menace, it's this threat of nuclear war, of nuclear conflict. And
the second, and maybe it's not less important, is the menace of -- the menace that this ruled -- rules-based world order which we are living now
in can be destroyed. And we all will find ourselves back to some kind of the war of everyone against everyone, like it was in medieval times. And
that is what President Putin, I think, is determined to return.
AMANPOUR: Everybody's been trying to figure out what is Putin's red line. Do you think now that this threat of nuclear war is still one?
BONDAREV: I believe that he's one single red line is that he keeps himself in the Kremlin.
BONDAREV: So, I believe he can try to do whatever he can to preserve himself. To keep his power forever. It was his main goal of all this war in
the first place. So -- but how he will play it out in practice, that is a really good question, yes.
AMANPOUR: So, in your signature article in foreign affairs about your quitting and about your concerns. You've wrote that in terms of him staying
in power, this failure, if it's a failure in Ukraine, it could actually lead to his ousting. So, you wrote, most Russians are in a tricky mental
space, brought about by poverty and huge doses of propaganda that sow hatred, fear, and simultaneous sense of superiority and helplessness. If
the country breaks apart or experiences an economic and political cataclysm, it would push them over the edge. Russians might unify behind
and even more belligerent leader than Putin. Provoking a civil war, more outside aggression, or both.
So, what is the solution to that?
BONDAREV: I believe that the solution of this current situation is to defeat Putin's army in Ukraine. Defeat them on the battlefield. So, he has
no other option but to withdraw from Ukraine, I believe, including Crimea. And then it will make a hard blow on his image of the great leader of --
great military leader and all.
This is an image that constituents, I believe 90 percent of his popularity. 90 percent of his power of foundation, so to speak. Being as the leader of
a pack, so to speak. Because he's elite is kind of a wolf pack and he's the leader of it. This weakness, this defeat would signify to them that he's no
more, no longer a strong leader. So, he -- they should find someone else. Let's -- you know, in plain words. So, I believe that he cannot afford
losing this war himself because it may become his end.
AMANPOUR: So, therefore, you must support, in that case, the -- you know, weapons that are being sent to Ukraine to ensure this battlefield defeat.
BONDAREV: Yes, I do. I do. I encourage all western countries to multiply their supplies. So, weapons, arms, munitions, whatever necessary to Ukraine
AMANPOUR: So, I want to know whether you, as a diplomat, our surprised like so many are by the, pretty much, the route -- I mean, let's not call
it a route yet, but by the fact that the Russian army is being badly defeated. You are a diplomat. You are in the elite. You must have, kind of,
known what the power of the military was. I know you weren't in the defense department. But are you surprised -- and also, we're being told by the U.S.
that sanctions really are working and they are harming the military juggernaut that Russia seemed to think it had.
BONDAREV: Yes, I suspect that Russian armed forces were not that strong and powerful as they were advertised. And -- but I, of course, I didn't
think that they were so overestimated. And this route in Ukraine, in Kyiv, and in Kharkiv, and now in Kherson shows that the Russian army is in a very
bad shape, really. But it's no surprise because it's just the consequence of this entirely corrupted state mechanism.
AMANPOUR: As you know, there are some who are saying that Ukraine should start to look at the negotiating table. But I hear you saying, no, unless
it's a negotiation that leads to or that is conditioned on the withdrawal of all Russian forces.
BONDAREV: Well, sure. Because first of all, we must understand what we want to achieve through this negotiation. If it's a -- it is a ceasefire,
we must answer the question whether Ukraine or other countries would need this ceasefire. Russia may need a ceasefire to regroup, to get some
reinforcements and all, and then to renew this warfare.
But whether Ukraine needs a ceasefire to make Russia -- to let Russia heal itself, I don't think so. The only negotiation that should take place is
the negotiations on the final settlement. And the settlement should be long-term settlement. Removing the threat of a new aggression from Russia.
And that can be achieved only through the change of the Russian political regime. Because there can be no fruitful negotiations with Putin because
the next day, he will violate them.
AMANPOUR: Which is exactly what President Zelenskyy said to me regarding this very question. So, let me ask you, for all these years that you are a
diplomat, what were you doing? I mean, do you feel that you were kind of a propagandist? That you were a dissimulator? That, you know -- that on
behalf of the state, just like what Sergey Lavrov is doing right now is defending what you've decided now is indefensible.
BONDAREV: My -- most part of my job in -- I mean, in my faither (ph) for these 20 years, mostly about some technical issues, like -- not major
political ones. It's about nonproliferation, disarmament, export control things. So, I dealt mostly with people who are very highly educated and
very highly qualified experts. So, we didn't have to use this propaganda and all.
But of course -- especially in my time in Geneva when all this confrontation within Russia and the west had been on the rise, of course,
we had to do more propaganda in our daily work. And that was very, you know, embarrassing to me.
So, a part of the reason why I quit was that I didn't want to do -- to be engaged in this propaganda machine anymore because it was just humiliating,
you know. Like you mentioned, Minister Lavrov who I think should be pitied because he -- he's now -- he has to do things that, you know, just
AMANPOUR: Basically, you hoped that your article and your action in leaving and quitting this would trigger a sort of following out of the
system. But it didn't happen. And in fact, I spoke to the Russian ambassador to the U.K. about you. And he was quite scathing. This is Andrei
Kelin. Let me just play a few.
ANDREI KELIN, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UK: This guy is -- I have never met him personally. But I can tell you that he is not one of us, one of the
Russian diplomats. He decided to change sides and it is his personal opinion. I'm absolutely sure that in a year time, he will be -- what's
going to happen with him, perhaps he will change sides again, so are these types of people. I know that he was unhappy at the ministry because he has
never been trusted serious job.
AMANPOUR: So, how do you answer that? Disgruntled, unhappy, never been trusted, you're going to change positions again, most likely.
BONDAREV: Well, what did you expect from Russian ambassador today? Well, he said what he had to say. So, it's no surprise. And well, he can say
whatever he wants. But regarding changing sides, I didn't change sides. I adjusted my side. My side is with Russia. But unlike Mr. Kelin, I duly
distinguish -- I do distinguish between the country and the government.
For him, it is one. And I think when -- since he's an ambassador and he's much older than me, I believe he should have come to this conclusion much
earlier than me. But maybe he will someday.
AMANPOUR: Well, interestingly because you do also say in your article that you know that a lot of diplomats like yourself were uneasy about the
increasingly belligerent policy that eventually you quit over. But nobody did question authority. Give us the sense of the atmosphere.
BONDAREV: Well, you know the -- I'm afraid it's kind of a hierarchical structure. And you don't usually challenge the opinion or the decision of
your boss. So, it's more or less obvious. And -- you can't. But the atmosphere has always been much, much freer than it is now. And we could
discuss, we could even dispute some instructions, some decisions, opinions on all of them. We could, in a way we could affect them from our point of
view and from our positions.
Now, I believe it's different because it is very, very -- now, it's very vertical system now. When all opinions -- if they do not coincide with the
opinion of the government can be considered to be, you know, to be unreliable, politically unreliable. And then it could have some negative
consequences for people who share those opinions.
So now, I think nobody shares anything. But the day are fully in line with the line of the government. So, I think the atmosphere now is much more
AMANPOUR: And finally, President Putin, as you said, and many have said, wants to be the king of the region, or the former soviet states have that
sort of empire for himself, and this this is what motivates him.
But I've heard, and maybe you know about this in diplomatic circles, that actually he's getting some cold shoulder and weak welcomes from the leaders
of these states. Where he visits, you know, apparently the president of Kazakhstan is going to Russia. What do you think his power and strength
amongst the near abroad is today compared with, you know, around the innovation time?
BONDAREV: Well, everybody in these regions have seen now with Russian armies are much more inferior than they thought it was before. And of
course, they now have less reasons to fear President Putin. So -- and you know, especially in Central Asia, it is quite important to be strong or to
seem strong to the eyes of the people.
So, now Putin, -- like, he missed his kill, like he's made a lot of failures and he shows that he's not as strong as he was. And now, he's less
feared. He's less respected. And that means that a Russian influence in Central Asia is, you know, is weakening. Though, it's very challenging now
for Putin. I have no idea how he will try to cope with that.
AMANPOUR: Yes, it's really interesting, your perspective from the inside and now from the outside. Boris Bondarev, thank you so much for joining us.
BONDAREV: Thank you for having me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And a note, Russia has postponed nuclear arms control talks with Washington. They were scheduled to begin in Egypt on Tuesday.
Turning now to the history of environmental activism in the United States. After a year of constant climate catastrophes, in his new book, "Silent
Spring Revolution", Douglas Brinkley traces the rise of activists in the 1960s to bring attention to the climate change movement. He joins Walter
Isaacson to talk and discuss this environmental awakening.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Doug Brinkley, welcome to the show.
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, HISTORIAN AND AUTHOR, "SILENT SPRING REVOLUTION": Well, thanks for having me, Walter.
ISAACSON: You know, this book you've just written is the third in a trilogy. You started with Teddy Roosevelt, and sort of the preservation
movement. The outdoor conservation movement. How is the movement of the 1960s that you write about this time, how is that different and how is it
connected to the Teddy Roosevelt era?
BRINKLEY: It's the -- it's a great question. They're really -- we've had three waves of conservation/environmental movements in America. The first
1901 to 1909, that's when Theodore Roosevelt was president. And we put aside about 234 million acres of wild America. Roosevelt created the
national forest service, he created federal bird reservations, new national parks.
And he elevated conservation as the number one issue of our time. John Muir and other people were about it -- involved. But it was about preservation
of open spaces and iconic heirloom parks, like the Grand Canyon or Crater Lake.
The second wave is FDR from 1933 to 1945 when in the midst of, particularly the dust bowl, the great depression, Roosevelt starts bringing federal
largeness into the picture to start saving a very drained and destroyed (ph) America. We plant a couple of billion trees in America with the
civilian conservation corps and FDR also saves places like the beginnings of saving the Everglades and the Smoky Mountains, and Channel Islands in
California, on and on.
The third wave that I'm writing about, "Silent Spring Revolution" is different than those two because it's not really about a president. It's
about how Rachel Carson's book in 1962, launched a revolution saying, I love the wilderness lobby. I loved what TR and FDR did. But now, due to
World War II, we have nuclear fallout, you know, we have, Walter, so many nuclear tests in Nevada that were making people sick. And DDT being sprayed
out of planes over vast acres were making people sick.
So, a conservation started becoming a public health concern, life quality, and at the same time, a smog had taken over Los Angeles and New York. Our
lakes and rivers were dying. So, the environmental awakening of the 1960's led by Rachel Carson had three presidents following her and the public
demand, and I write about those presidents, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, and all the incredible things we accomplished in that era.
ISAACSON: Well, let's start with Rachel Carson. I think there was a quote from Lincoln once about meeting Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote "Uncle
Tom's Cabin", maybe apocryphal. And he said, it's good to meet the lady who started the civil war.
To what extent does Rachel Carson's book ignite a movement and how? I mean, we don't have books like that these days.
BRINKLEY: It's rare when a book is -- galvanizes something like "Silent Spring". Rachel Carson was from Springdale, Pennsylvania, along the
Allegheny River. She was a brilliant girl who love the natural world and had a literary gift. She went to do her masters in zoology at Johns
Hopkins. Studied at the famous Woods Hole Oceanographic laboratory right down the road from the Kennedy compound at Cape Cod. And then starting in
1941 with "Under the Sea Wind", it was -- it became a mega bestseller, two more bestsellers.
So, by the time she wrote, "Silent Spring" --
ISAACSON: Well, wait. Let me interrupt there. Why did they become bestsellers? Is there a hunger for this at that time in the 50s?
BRINKLEY: Nobody, Walter, wrote about the oceans with the beauty of Rachel Carson. Scientific exactness with the grace of a great novelist. And so,
they all hold up today. You read them and you learn about seashore life, or about eels, or starfish. And they're remarkable. And Jacques Cousteau
started kicking in with saving the oceans.
They're -- we focused so much on space in John F. Kennedy going to the moon. But there was, in the 1950s and 60s, a real interest in ocean
studies. Oceanography. There were books about that, you know, dolphins are smart as humans. We were recording the sounds of whale songs for the first
time and the like. And Carson was the leader of what I would call ocean conservation movement.
ISAACSON: But then. "Silence Spring" gets you into DDT. I mean, it's a whole different genre.
BRINKLEY: As a government bureaucrat, if you like, she learned all about the tests going on at a place FDR created, Patuxent, Maryland. And there
you would use these newfangled chemicals like DDT and test them on a river. Test them in the woods. See the -- get the scientific data about how it was
affecting an osprey or eagles.
So, she basically was the whistleblower. When she had cancer, living in this Silver Spring, Maryland, fighting against the clock. She would die two
years after her book came out of cancer. So, it's an epic story of her writing this book and launching it in June of 1962. First in a famous
serialization at the New Yorker, then John F. Kennedy at a press conference addresses her book, and creates a stir.
And then the book comes out and -- the -- it's disgusting to see what big chemical -- the conglomerates (ph) did to try to destroy Carson and her
research. But alas, DDT was bad and it took a decade to get it banned in North America. It's finally banned in 1972 by Richard Nixon. But
particularly because of the first head of the EPA, William Ruckelshaus, was a true man of science, and faced the fact that you could not be putting
this much DDT into our ground or atmosphere.
ISAACSON: So, this book comes in 1962, chemical companies started attacking it, and John Kennedy is president. We know his love of the
oceans, you know, from his sailing. So, he's very familiar with Rachel Carson. How does he defend her when she starts getting attacked?
BRINKLEY: You know, the big thing is the man William O. Douglas, he's the green justice.
ISAACSON: When you say justice, he was a Supreme Court justice.
BRINKLEY: The longest serving and he is from Yakima, Washington, and he was John Muir/Henry David Thoreau die in the wool environmentalist. And he
discovered Rachel Carson's ocean books, and they collaborated. And Douglas adopted Rachel Carson in every way imaginable. She -- they're in cahoots
And Douglas', the -- is extremely close to the Kennedy family, and Rachel Carson helped write the Democratic Party plank in 1960 on environment and
ecology. And so, she was a Kennedy/Ike. And so, Jack Kennedy was backing one of his own when he said, look, we're going to look into Rachel Carson.
But I'm going to put the best scientist in America to study her book, and the verdict will come in. And the verdict came in that Rachel Carson was
ISAACSON: You talk about Supreme Court Justice, William O. Douglas. And he is an incredible advocate. I mean, he is not just sitting there on the
Supreme Court trying to judge cases, he is leading the environmental movement. We think now that the Supreme Court has become activist, but this
really surprised me, how partisan and -- well, I won't partisan, but activist and ideological he became.
BRINKLEY: You know, when people are real environmentalists, they think about it in planetary ways. Saving planet Earth. Douglas was one of them.
He bent the law in favor of the environment time and time again.
And Walter, his office became a clearinghouse for the Sierra Club, Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Izaak Walton League, because there
was no environmental protection agency until 1970.But Douglas --
ISAACSON: Well, wait. Wait. Was that appropriate for a Supreme Court justice, in his office, in chambers, to be, sort of, a focus of a movement
that would have cases in front of the court?
BRINKLEY: His view was, I'm a citizen, I can write and say what I want. And I -- and he started fighting, advocating to a new bill of rights, a
wilderness bill of right that every American should be born to a right to clean air and clean water.
So, yes, one of the dramatic parts of my book is exposing Douglas. If you're a die-hard environmentalist, you're cheering him on. If you're
somebody that is worrying about constitutional law, if you're scratching your head saying, how did he get away with it? He'd always was a maverick
individualist to the extreme and believed a lot in liberty, but he particularly believed that wild America was a birthright.
ISAACSON: But there's something on the other side. You then have Supreme Court Justice, Lewis Powell, who was very much an activist for the
corporate side and the chemical companies.
BRINKLEY: Absolutely. They're -- they -- they're pitted against each other. Powell writes his famous "Powell Memo" in 1971 to the Chamber of
Commerce. And Powell, he becomes Supreme Court justice in '72. But Powell is warning, Douglas is taking over, Rachel Carson is taking over, Ralph
Nader is taking over Barry Commoner.
And that the -- Powell was saying the left or environmentalist, if you like, had taken over the universities, media culture, "New York Times",
think tanks, book world. You know, David Brower's Sierra Club's thinning (ph) out all these books. And out of the "Powell Memo" is born what we're
dealing with today. It gives birth to Cato Institute, American Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation, Koch Brother Industry nonprofits, the Coors
Meaning, they saw that environmentalism was hyper federal regulation was going to put extract cost -- the extraction industries a lot of money. And
so, they united to fight environmentalism. And so, by the time Nixon becomes president, he's inheriting all of this environmental activism and
has to decide how to play his hand.
ISAACSON: Back, then it was a non-partisan issue. I was surprised to read unanimous senate votes in the early 1970s on things like Environmental
Protection Act or Clean Water. Why was it non-partisan, and what happened to destroy that?
BRINKLEY: You know, Walter, the Endangered Species Act is signed by Nixon, December 28 1973. It passed the senate 92 to nothing. This was the
beginning of saving all of our species. You just take a state, let's just say Florida, or I could do it for any state, suddenly the crocodile gets
saved, the alligator, manatee, whooping cranes coming back into play. They're getting media attention, all of this.
The Republicans were still Theodore Roosevelt conservation back then. You know, you should read Howard Baker's testimony on the Clean Water Act of
'72, it's a beautiful environmental manifesto demanding clean water. Part of it was, how could you be a politician and defend Cuyahoga River being on
fire in Ohio? I mean, if you're in Ohio, you're no longer -- what party matters when your rivers are burning?
ISAACSON: Nixon's State of the Union speech in 1970 is sort of a -- an amazing declaration in favor of environmentalism. Tell me how that came
BRINKLEY: Well, it came about because Earth Day, April 22, 1970, and it was such a big national event. I mean, everybody participated in the
teaching. Nixon thought it might be a left-wing liberal plot, but nevertheless, he planted a tree on the White House with Pat for Earth Day.
And he allowed Walter Hinkle and the interior department to do -- teach and work on the environment.
Nixon started seeing environment as a winning issue. By the end of that year of 1970, he created the EPA, passed the Clean Air Act of 1970, and
established NOAA and much more. One of the reasons Nixon gets abandoned by conservatives, by the "Powell Memo" people is they don't like what he did.
You know, everybody likes to tell that Barry Goldwater told, Nixon, he's a liar and I don't trust you in Watergate. Goldwater was livid at Nixon for
his EPA work and his environmental impact. It was bending billions of federal dollars on the environment that the hard right of the party didn't
ISAACSON: But Nixon in 1973 shifts back a bit. Why is that?
BRINKLEY: Walter, he shifts back because of high gasoline prices and the Arab oil embargo. And that hits October '73. When gas prices go up and
inflation kicks in, and hit the right -- his base is furious at him, he just won a big -- landslide in '72 and he decides, I am going to back away
from more environmental legislation. And Watergate, just consumes Nixon.
And so, really, that wave I'm talking about, the Rachel Carson wave, ends in 1973 with the Endangered Species Act. It has a little pop moment when
Jimmy Carter is president, because Carter moved in and did such a great work on saving Alaska lands. But by 1980 with Reagan, environmentalism
becomes seen as a Democratic priority, while the Republicans are for the oil, gas extraction, chemical industries and we haven't been able to get
back together on the same page since '73.
ISAACSON: The 1960s environmental movement you talk about seems to me a bit -- of sort of a backyard thing. We care about oceans and fish, and sort
of our natural habitat and stuff. Did they have any sense of the much bigger issue, things like climate?
BRINKLEY: You know, yes. Yes, they did. We first learned about climate from a TELUS report, really 1958, we know about it. I write in my book how
Kennedy's -- John F. Kennedy administration knew that climate, meaning global warming, was going to be a problem due to fossil fuels. LBJ gives a
speech about it. It just gets buried, because so much is going on with civil rights in Vietnam and the like.
And I write in the book about Daniel Patrick Moynihan's alarming memo that he writes. And he says, look, this climate change, this is -- it -- the
data is right. He then, somewhat jokingly says, that that might mean goodbye Miami, goodbye New York, goodbye Washington. I don't know about
Seattle. And it just tells you how frustrating it is to talk about climate issue, which is such a big one, but the media never puts it as front the
way Theodore Roosevelt put conservationists.
The number one issue, we -- environment, we had midterm elections and climate change, was probably, at best, fifth on the list of national
concerns. It seems only gen -- generation Z people are putting it at the top of their agenda.
ISAACSON: The 1960s, the long 1960s, between 1962 when Rachel Carson does her book to 1973 or so. This is a non-partisan issue. Republicans are
almost in the forefront of some of the environmental acts then. How is it we could get it back to being a non-partisan issue?
BRINKLEY: It's going to be hard to get on the same page now, because people don't like to call things, including the media, a climate event.
Anytime it's a hurricane, people will say, well, there were hurricanes since the beginning of time. How do you decipher what's caused by climate
change and not? But we are going to meet our comeuppance here. You can't play ostrich symbol forever. So, I think we need a leader -- leadership
talking about an Earthshot.
You know, I've written about the Moonshot and going to the moon. But we need to save planet Earth now. And realize, like TR would say, every flower
specie is a masterpiece and we don't want to lose them. And unfortunately, we are having massive species extinctions going on right now. And I think
it needs to be elevated on the list of public concerns.
I hope with books like mine, with new activists, young people, documentaries, novels that are creating the new awareness, they are signs
that the 20 years old get it and they're ready to be the generation that becomes the new -- that triggers that Rachel Carson moment.
ISAACSON: Doug Brinkley, thank you so much for joining us.
BRINKLEY: Thank you, Walter. I really appreciate it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, a glimmer of climate hope, particularly for the great barrier reef. Australia's first offshore coral nursery has
finally spawned four years after being planted. While coral is often grown to maintain habitat, getting it to actually create new reef marks a
milestone for its rehabilitation.
This reproductive event is the start of coral spawning corresponding for reefs closer to the coast, that's been happening this month, with the outer
reef expected to spawn in a couple of weeks-time.
And a U.N.-backed report is recommending the whole reef be protected by placing it on UNESCO's World Heritage in Danger list.
That is it for now. Thank you for watching. And goodbye from London.