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Interview With "Weapons Of Mass Delusion" Author And The New York Times Staff Writer Robert Draper, Interview With Former Representative Mondaire Jones (D-NY); Interview With Russian Journalist And "All Of The Kremlin's Men" Author Mikhail Zygar; Interview With The New Yorker Contributing Writer Luke Mogelson; Interview With Eurasia Group President And Founder Ian Bremmer. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired January 06, 2023 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Hello, everyone. And welcome to AMANPOUR. Here is what's coming up.
Chaos rules in Congress, now as the U.S. marks the second anniversary of the January 6th attacks. I am joined by Robert Draper, who has been
covering the Washington waiting game, and former Democratic Congressman Mondaire Jones. Then, the fighting continues in Ukraine after Kyiv
dismisses Putin's ceasefire. The latest, with Independent Russian journalist Mikhail Zygar, and American reporter, Luke Mogelson, who spent
time on the Ukrainian frontlines. Also, ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER, EURASIA GROUP: This is a very strong flashing, don't panic sign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: The president of the Eurasia Group, Ian Bremmer, hails the resilience of the world's democracies. But warns our Walter Isaacson that
global challenges lie ahead in 2023.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I am Bianna Golodryga sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
The United States is marking the second anniversary of the attack on the Capital on January 6, 2021. It is a solemn occasion that President Biden is
marking by awarding the Presidential Citizens Medal to 12 individuals who have defended U.S. democracy. Many of them are Capitol police who faced the
rioters two years ago.
Meantime, Congress faces a new crisis as well. The kind that has not been seen in 164 years. After three, days, the House of Representatives remains
speakerless as the Republican majority struggles to overcome bitter divides. Their leader, Kevin McCarthy, is trading away more and more power
to garner the support of stubborn holdouts. But, even if the strategy pays off, what he is giving away could make Congress almost unmanageable.
Well, there is a lot to talk about, so let's get right to it. I'm joined by Mondaire Jones, former Democratic congressman who was at the Capitol during
the attack two years ago. And also with us is Robert Draper, he is the author of "Weapons of Mass Delusion: When the Republican Party Lost Its
Mind" and has been reporting from the Capitol all week.
Welcome, both of you. Robert, let me start with you. So, going into today's session, Kevin McCarthy said that he expects holdouts voting for him today,
that some of those 20 will in fact turn. And that is what we saw in the first voting session of the day. Obviously, a better day for Kevin McCarthy
than it has been in the days prior, but that is all relative. What do you expect to happen at the end of the day? Will he solidify leadership?
ROBERT DRAPER, AUTHOR, "WEAPONS OF MASS DELUSION", STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I don't know yet if it is going to happen by the end of
the day, Bianna. It's certainly going to happen soon. I think that McCarthy faces a couple of problems in the immediate, obviously, he is chipping away
at votes. But there is going to be a hard-core that will still prevent him from getting the speakership, and he's got to figure out a way to build
some kind of off-ramp for them.
Because some of them who are in this, like Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert, I do not think, were in it because they really want to change a procedure.
They're in it for the fight club and there is a base that reward that kind of fighting behavior. The converse of that is that if they do give in, even
if the -- is a very suitable compromise to them, it is still going to look like capitulation. So, they will have to figure that out.
The second more long term concern is the one that you referenced earlier, Bianna, which is that this is going to make for an extremely weak
speakership. And it is going to be very, very difficult to see how -- I mean, already with a razor thin majority of 222 or so, it's going to be
hard to get to 218 on anything. But now, it is going to be difficult just to decide on what bills get moved into committee. What rules govern floor
activity. It's going to a real mess.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, a mess indeed. And it already is a real mess. But let's talk about some of the concessions that McCarthy has already made to no
avail at this point. And that is allowing one member to vote to oust the speaker. A 72-hour rule to review bills. More freedom caucus members to be
placed on the Rules Committee.
And, just today, Bloomberg is reporting that he agreed to $75 billion in defense cuts. I am just curious, given these concessions, what impact do
you think that would have on his speakership if he does in fact gain it at some point. And could we be here again, given some of these concessions, in
just a week or two time?
DRAPER: If that was to me, Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, yes.
DRAPER: The answer -- yes, then the answer is, yes. It could mean for not only a week speakership but a very, very short term one. I think that, you
know, the idea of a snap vote for a motion to vacate has been present for some time. It was Speaker Pelosi who changed the rule on that after it had
happened to Boehner.
The problem, of course, is that this is a very rambunctious, arguably ungovernable, unmanageable group of Republicans who will chop at the bit
for the possibility to do this. I think that some of the other changes were arguably welcome amongst mainstream Republicans. Even including allowing,
say, more freedom caucus types to be on the Rules Committee. But the motion to vacate is, you know, essentially -- I mean, it's -- it could utter a
very, very short speakership for McCarthy.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, some of these proposals, one could argue are legitimate. Some are just to blow the system up as a whole.
Mondaire, as we said, we haven't seen something like this take place in 164 years. I'm just wondering, given your perch, you are now not in Congress
but you were. And you are there two years ago, and we're going to talk about the meaning and the symbolism of all of this happening today. What is
your take on the issue at hand in how Democrats are responding in unison, right now, just watching this from the sidelines?
FMR. REP. MONDAIRE JONES (D-NY): Well, this is extraordinary, as you noted. The fact that the only precedence for this is or was the years
leading up to the civil war, I think, is telling in and of itself. I was listening to my former colleague, (INAUDIBLE), in nominating Hakeem
Jeffries as minority leader -- or as speaker, I should say, on the House floor yesterday.
He talked about being sworn in in January of 2019 in the midst of a government shutdown. He talked about being sworn in in January of 2021
alongside folks like myself. And, of course, just a few days later we saw an attempted coup, the overthrow of the federal government itself incited
by the leader of the Republican Party, Donald Trump.
And so, this is, in some ways, the natural progression of a party, a Republican Party, that increasingly is filled with people who do not want
to govern. But rather, who want to incite anger among the American people. And when they finally do elect a speaker, which I do believe will happen. I
don't know that it will be Kevin McCarthy, but it will be somebody. What will happen next?
They're going to be investigating Hunter Biden. And, you know, giving a lot of money to other investigations that the American people did not elect
them to do and that are distractions from the issues of inflation and crime and immigration. The other things that they ran on.
GOLODRYGA: Mondaire, I want you to respond to what Congressman Matt Rosendale, who is opposed to McCarthy's speakership, said in terms of his
concern about the consolidation of power that is held and wielded by the speaker and has been for years. This has been an issue that has been
raised, let's be fair, by Democrats as well in the past. And, again, putting aside those who are just doing this for chaos's sake, I am
wondering if you think he has a point when he says this. Let's play.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MATT ROSENDALE (R-MO): The debate and the discussion has been all but eliminated. And the balance of us are left to vote yes or no, those are our
options. And that is what has led to the disintegration of the relationships that we see across this floor. So, yes, we need to have
change. We need to fix this broken system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Mondaire, do you agree with him? Do you -- does change need to be seen and is the system broken?
JONES: Well, to your earlier point, some of these concessions that members of the Freedom Caucus have obtained have merit. So, you talk about having
72 hours' notice before voting on a bill on the floor of the House. You talk about making sure that there is representation across the ideological
spectrum on committees. But here is the thing, members of the Freedom Caucus are not committed to governing.
And so, when you put them on the Rules Committee, that is a recipe for disaster. And, the most alarming of the concessions, thus far, has been
this motion to vacate the chair. That means, at least as of recent reporting, that at least -- that only one person is required to have a vote
on replacing Kevin McCarthy, for example.
And that is going to mean that he is going to have a short-lived speakership. Because you can easily find a small number of Republicans,
including the ones who have been voting for someone other than Kevin McCarthy this week --
-- to align themselves with Democrats who would be thrilled to replace Kevin McCarthy. Who, by the, way is not nearly as moderate as many people
in the press have been describing him as. He's just more moderate than the extreme far-right that is now voting against him.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, people Matt Gaetz, threatened that he would just resign if anybody from his party worked with Democrats. So, we'll see if that does
end up transpiring at some point in terms of nominating a -- somebody there for speakership.
Robert, as we noted, today is a solemn day. It marks the two-year mark of the attack at the Capitol. And, not all of these 200 that are behind
McCarthy are election deniers, but a good portion are. And of the 20 that are the holdouts, I believe all of them are election deniers. So, yes, we
can say two years later democracy prevailed, but I am just wondering given that these 20, at least, maybe the number has gone down a bit now are
holding this process hostage. What does this say about the threat to democracy going forward?
DRAPER: Sure. Bianna, I just want to say that two years ago, at precisely this time, I was walking through the Capitol Rotunda and happen to see on
my left some Capitol policeman running up the steps of the west terrace. I went over there. And before -- in a matter of minutes, found myself being
among ad hoc group that was helping to splash -- to set up a water station so that the police could remove the mace from their eyes. It was a really,
really horrific day.
And it's -- and it was interesting to see in the last couple of days when Democrats have stood up and denounced the Republicans for their behavior on
January the 6th to see no effort at rebuttal on their part. And I do think that -- to your point, that the 20 holdouts were all election deniers.
One thing that we can certainly see is far from any kind of -- oh, I don't know, repair or self-repudiation about what they did and didn't do that
day. We will instead, likely, see among the investigations that takes place, the investigation of the January 6th Committee itself. That they
will be burrowing through the evidence boxes to see if there's anything to suggest, for example. If Speaker Nancy Pelosi had played some role in the
laxness of the security.
That is certainly a conclusion that a lot of these Republicans have reached. And now they are going to find evidence to support that
GOLODRYGA: Mondaire, at some point -- listen, I understand the message being sent by Democrats now that their house is in order and they have
continued to nominate Hakeem Jeffries as their speaker and their leader. But at some point, they were elected by the American public and voters to
get things done in Washington. And at some point, I don't know how long this is going to last, but even once a speaker is announced they've got to
deal with real serious issues like the debt ceiling, like funding for Ukraine, funding the government, et cetera.
Is there a point where they're missing an opportunity by not stepping in, by not appealing or appearing to look like they are willing to work across
the aisle for the sake of the country as a whole?
JONES: In fact, I think you see Democrats doing that. Every time there is a ballot cast and Hakeem Jeffries is the highest vote getter by a large
margin. It is the natural next step for any so-called moderate Republican, a good conscience, who cares about governing to go over to Democrats who
are unified and say, hey, there are about five of us who are willing to vote for a Democratic leader. And no one, by the way, has, from my
observation, been critical of Hakeem Jeffries as someone who would be a good speaker among those moderate Republicans who have been speaking to the
And of course, they can negotiate the terms of a power sharing agreement. But it is not a natural next step, I think, for Democrats who are unified
and who have been nominating someone who is getting more votes consistently to go over to the other side and empower Kevin McCarthy, for example. Who
was one of the two thirds of House Republicans in January of 2021 to vote to overturn that free and fair presidential election.
This is the problem. It is not just the first order of business of electing a Republican speaker, it is what happens afterwards when they are in the
majority. The investigations, the inability to deal with the debt ceiling because they are not serious about making policy. They're -- that's why
they are better off time in times running for office than actually governing. And I think, so long as the American people continue to see what
is happening, they are going to come away with a better understanding of what happens when you put Republicans in charge of government.
GOLODRYGA: Robert, as we close, what impacted all this have on the Biden presidency? I couldn't help but notice, you know, trying to juxtapose the
One you see happening at the Capitol and what happened earlier this week where he was going to kentucky at a bridge there. With mitch McConnell. He
seems to still be supportive and believes in the notion of working across the aisle, even though that doesn't appear to be what we see taking place
in reality. We can't even get a speakership announced. What do you make of the implications on him?
DRAPER: Well, sure. I think that, you know, the silver lining for Biden and the Democrats and the Democrats losing control over the House is that
the Republicans now are in control the House, and with this, majority of five or so.
And so, the Biden administration, while doing, you know, other things will certainly take every opportunity to contrast their own performance and
their own efforts at good governments with the chaos that presumably will surround Kevin McCarthy's Republicans. This will be the reminder that if
you allow -- the American voter, if you allow Republicans to run the table to control the Senate, the House, and the executive branch, then you will
see this pervasive dysfunctionality.
And so, I think that we are going to be hearing that message from the Biden ministration over and over again using the Republican-controlled House as a
foil, basically, to their own efforts.
GOLODRYGA: Right. We will have to leave it there. Robert Draper, Mondaire Jones, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate your time.
Hopefully, at some point, whether today or this weekend, we can announce to our viewers that there is, in fact, a speaker and in the United States
Congress. But as of yet, we will continue to wait and watch. We appreciate it. Thank you.
JONES: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Cynical. That is how Kyiv in Washington are describing Russia's declaration of a temporary cease-fire to coincide with an orthodox
Christmas. Ukraine has not agreed to it. And CNN today witnessed incoming and outgoing out to artillery fire around the Eastern City of Bakhmut.
Meanwhile, new picture shows the devastation caused by months heavy fighting in that city.
Two guests join me now for a look at power dynamics in Moscow and life on the battlefield in Ukraine. Mikhail Zygar is an independent Russian
journalist and author of "All of the Kremlin's Men," now living in exile in Berlin. And New Yorker writer Luke Mogelson is among the few people who
have spent time embedded with fighters during this war. And he joins us from Paris. Welcome, both of you.
Mikhail, if I can start with you. There is some healthy skepticism over the motivation of Putin's unilateral move for Christmas time cease-fire as we
are hearing sirens in the cities throughout Ukraine as well. There is an idea, perhaps, that he is doing this to buy more time and perhaps even
conscript more Russian men. What is your take on this?
MIKHAIL ZYGAR, RUSSIAN JOURNALIST, AUTHOR, "ALL OF THE KREMLIN'S MEN": No, I personally think that is completely internal propaganda and that message
is directed to Russian audience, like all the people who are watching Russian television at home, because there is still new year's holidays
going on, and they are watching it. And they hear that Putin is the only person who wants peace, and they might sensified with that message. And
that's -- they are the target of that message. Not Ukraine, not the United States.
GOLODRYGA: So, the target is his own people there through a propaganda. Luke, you, as we noted, are one of the few journalists who was able to
embed with fighters in this war. And you have a fascinating piece where you talk about the legion of fighters from around the world that have joined
Ukrainian troops there on the ground. And you've spent time with them and you talk about, over the course of the month, the numbers start to dwindle
as the fighting becomes more and more intensified and real.
You talk about people who remain like Ty (ph), Tea Q (ph), Turtle (ph), Herring. Tell us a little bit about these men who you got to know and meet
and their stories?
LUKE MOGELSON, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: These were members of the International Legion, which was created at the very beginning of the
war to accommodate foreign veterans of other wars that wanted to help defend Ukraine against the Russian invasion. And, as you mentioned, there
was an initial significant influx of volunteers from as many as 52 different countries, but that quickly changed when they encountered the
very brutal reality of combat in Ukraine, which I think was unlike anything that even veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria had experienced
So, the number of fighters now are -- is much smaller. But they are all committed and serious and professional fighters such as the five men I
spent time with in Donetsk.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. We are showing images from your time with them as we speak. You also get to know an American who went by the name of Doc,
Herring, also an American. Doc was a former tech industry expert, who at one time works for Google. All of these men brought their own experiences
and training to the battlefield there.
And I want to read from your piece about Herring. And you write about Herring in 2018. Had brought a drone and taught himself to locate schools
of fish by tracking the whales and sharks that fed on them. When he realized the drones would play a role in Ukraine, he said, it was hard to
sit on the sidelines knowing you can help. He added that he had grown up in Illinois, and as a Midwesterner, dude, I always hated Russia the, whole red
dawn thing. Herring had flown drones for hundreds of hours in Donetsk, dropping explosives on Russian positions and identifying enemy coordinates
for Ukrainian artillery.
I know you got an update on his well-being. He had been injured, but he is back fighting. What have men like Herring and Doc contributed to this war
with their own skill set?
MOGELSON: Well, this particular group that I was with specialized in reconnaissance. So, they were going out mostly at night to probe the no-
man's-land or the gray zone in between the Russian and Ukrainian lines, which is extremely dangerous and risky and does require a certain
specialized skillset, as well as special equipment such as night vision goggles and thermal scopes.
And Herring was operating a drone that had a thermal camera that could detect the heat signatures of Russian tanks and soldiers.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And one more tidbit about their interactions with Ukrainian troops that I found was so interesting was their -- how they
communicated with each other. You know, in 2022, '23, we talk about this war in the trench warfare looking a lot to like World War I. Well, even the
language barriers got in the way as well. And you write that, trust between international volunteers and the Ukrainian military was crucial yet
precarious. And here's how you describe. When Doc first rotated to Donetsk, a Portuguese team ever whose parents were Ukrainian, would translate from
Ukrainian to Portuguese, which a Brazilian member would translate to Spanish, which American member would translate to English. Each link in
that chain has since left that country.
How much of a language barrier and background impact coordination and trust between this legion of international fighters and Ukrainian troops
MOGELSON: Well, it is an obvious hurdle. But I guess the counter argument to that is, I was really surprised by how much they were able to do with
extremely minimal verbal communication. I accompanied this team on several missions at night that are difficult to coordinate under any circumstances.
But in their case, they were working shoulder to shoulder with Ukrainian soldiers and infantry men who didn't speak English.
They didn't have a translator, and yet, because they had been working together under trying circumstances for a long time already, they were able
to maneuver and execute their mission pretty seamlessly, notwithstanding the language barrier.
GOLODRYGA: So, Mikhail, I want to bring you in here because as you are listening to this, and notwithstanding some of the challenges that these
Ukrainian troops had faced along with the legion of international fighters joining them, they managed to retake back territory taken by Russians and
continue time and time again to surprise international military experts. And at the same time, embarrassed Russian military elite who continue to
mistake -- make mistake after mistake.
Just this week, we had just as many as few hundred Russian troops, if you were to believe, Ukrainian intel who were killed after a strike in Eastern
Ukraine. The Russian Defense Ministry quickly blamed the soldiers by saying, well, they shouldn't have been using their phones. Of course,
forgetting that the big question as to why they're all stationed together, why they were near a military -- ammunition depot. All of this is to say
there is a lot of criticism that is being leveled against the Russian military, but not Putin, yet.
Why do you think that is and what does it say about his control of power at this point?
ZYGAR: No, I think he is in control and he is the only person to take all the decisions and he is not even as a commander-in-chief. He's running the
operation. And every important field commander, like general and lieutenants, are all reporting to him bypassing minister of defense. So, he
And probably the way how he sees the successes of Russian army are not exactly accurate. And he still believes that it is possible for him to --
for his army to achieve his goals. And according to my sources, he strongly believes that the Russian army is still capable to take Kyiv. That sounds
completely insane and the least probable thing to happen. But, according to my sources from Moscow, from close to his inner circle, he still thinks
that that's the thing to do.
GOLODRYGA: Well, and it seems that Ukrainians are taking him seriously, whether or not they actually believe that will happen. I know what will
also help in them, hoping to get more aid from Western countries as well, both financially and militarily. I know both France and Germany now said
that they would even be supplying Ukraine with tanks. And the U.S., obviously, has taken the lead in providing aid.
You have a new piece out in Der Spiegel where you do talk about some other names, perhaps in the wings, who you keep hearing more and more of in terms
of a possible successor to Vladimir Putin. And one of them stands out, and that is Yevgeny Prigozhin. And for those who don't know him, he has been in
charge of that mercenary group around the world, the Wagner Group, that has committed atrocities both in Ukraine and in Africa and other places and
countries and continents.
And, going back to, you know, Trump's early years in the U.S. here, he was the man behind that troll farm. And he was known as Putin's chef. Tell me
about him and what it is about him specifically as to why you keep hearing his name among your sources?
ZYGAR: Yes. That is really interesting because I named him to be like the person of the year in Russia of 2022 or probably the villain of the year,
because he is the most scary figure. The most scary new figure in Russian politics and probably the only political figure that seems to be really
He is commanding of his own personal army. A private military company, Wagner. And that -- and Wagner is not reporting to the minister of defense.
That is not a part of the military bureaucracy. And it's fighting on its own. It's fighting near Ukrainian City of Bakhmut. And the chances of
Wagner to take Bakhmut seem rather probable.
So, probably, soon we are going to hear of Prigozhin as the only successful world leader on the Russian side. But at the same time, Prigozhin has
become very politically important. He is the only guy to openly challenged the ministry of defense, different Russian governors. He's touring across
Russia, recruiting convicts from Russian prisons. So, he can -- he has that power that is superior to the power of FSB or all other Russian security
So, he can free anyone from prison and take him to his own personal army. So, a lot of people in Moscow say that the personal influence of Prigozhin
that has become that impressive. And so, he's got his own clan, and many very influential oligarchs, bureaucrats, politicians, like the ideologists
of Russian fascism, Dugin, or Konstantin Malofeev who used to be the sponsor of the invasion to Donbas in 2014, are now aligned with Prigozhin.
And so, probably Prigozhin is going to be the force that could challenge Putin.
GOLODRYGA: So, Mikhail, quickly. Can I just ask you why Putin is allowing for his name to garner as much attention as it has been? He's squashed
every single potential in the past. Why has he allowed this?
ZYGAR: You know, that is a very good question, and we've got no answer. Probably Putin is still sure that he is controlling the situation. He likes
that, you know, kind of rat race and he thinks that he still controls the situation. And having Prigozhin as a counterpart to (INAUDIBLE) and the
minister of defense and the army, seems to be the healthy competition for him. But according to my sources, he's not exactly in control of the
situation. And so, probably he is losing the moment to get his men in his control.
GOLODRYGA: Wow. This is fascinating. And, Luke, obviously, this has implications on Ukrainian troops on the ground there who are waiting for
another assault by Russians. They are saying that that is why they are not going to the negotiating table at this point because they don't believe
that Russia has been inflicted with enough pain to seriously go to the negotiating table. And you've given some wonderful insight into just some
of these people from around the world that have come to help the Ukrainian troops. Thank you for your peace and thank you, Mikhail, for joining us
with your reporting as well. We appreciate it.
ZYGAR: Thank you.
MOGELSON: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Well, Putin's war in Ukraine is not the only global political risk set to loom over 2023. A series of international challenges lie ahead
as China U-turns on its zero COVID policy. And protests in Iran continue. President of Eurasia Group, Ian Bremmer, talks to Walter Isaacson about
what to expect on the world stage this year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Bianna. And, Ian Bremmer, welcome to the show.
IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER, EURASIA GROUP: Great to be back with you, Walter.
ISAACSON: Hey, until I read your latest thing, I was having a happy new year. I wasn't thinking things were going pretty well. COVID receding, NATO
is gathered together pretty well. Russia is not doing that well in Ukraine and we had a midterm election that weren't as disruptive to democracy as we
thought. And yet, in week 11 (ph), you say it's the worst crisis we have face in 25 years. Tell me about that.
BREMMER: Well, there's no question that there are a lot of things to be thankful for. The fact that U.S. democracy, and indeed, the world's major
democracies are not at our top risk list is a very important thing. This is a very strong flashing don't panic sign, because there is resilience in
these institutions. And even when leaders try to do things that are truly disruptive and break the system, plenty of checks and balances that prevent
them from doing that.
The problem, Walter, is that we are facing a global environment where a small number of individual actors, some of which are aging dictators, some
of which are tech pros, there's a little bit of overlap between those two groups, have an extraordinary amount of power. They have no checks and
balances. They can make really bad decisions and they don't get a lot of great expertise in helping them formulate those decisions.
Putin, of course, is the one who's made the worst decision of them. Literally the worst misjudgment of any leader on the global stage in
decades, and he's going to be paying the consequences for that, and the world is a lot more unstable as a consequence.
But it is not just that, it is also Xi Jinping, it's also Iran's supreme leader and it's also a small number of techno of billionaires who also have
the ability to make decisions that are deeply disruptive for global democracies without a lot of ability to prevent them from doing that. So,
that is really where the risks are. A very different from the kind of conversations we were having, say, on January 6th a couple of years ago.
And, yet, in many ways, much more problematic for the world economy, for geopolitics, that what was happening in the nation's capital.
ISAACSON: You said we're resilient and that the disruptions are going to happen with people like Putin and all. And yet, this week, we have seen
what really is a weird show in the House of Representatives trying to elect a speaker, even if it ends up that the dust all settling, doesn't this put
him badly for some things like having to raise the debt ceiling or having to do normal things that would keep our economy afloat?
BREMMER: It is largely performative. I mean, it is certainly true, Walter, that we haven't had a speaker of the house vote go beyond the first vote in
literally 100 years. So, I mean, congratulations to the GOP for making some history. But we don't need the House in any urgent way to make legislation
or pass rules or anything else that requires a speaker.
It is very exciting for cable news, don't get me wrong. But for a longer- term conversation about the United States and how it is able to act as a leader on the global stage, ensure that its democracy functions, what is
happening in the House right now doesn't matter all that much. And there are plenty of ways that you will get through a debt ceiling in the second
half of the year, irrespective of who the speaker of the House turns out to be.
ISAACSON: This week, Vladimir Putin said, maybe we'll have that 36-hour cease-fire. Why is it not in everybody's interest to say, let's just have a
sustained cease-fire, perhaps guarantee right international force, and calm this down?
BREMMER: Well, one, the Ukrainians do not want to cease-fire because so much of their land is illegally occupied by Russia. And we are not just
talking about Crimea, which was autonomous under independent Ukraine, we are talking about large amounts of territory that is majority Ukrainian or
at least was until the Russians came in and killed them and forced them to leave. And that is unacceptable. Not just to Ukraine but pretty much
everybody in NATO.
So, number one, you can't get Zelenskyy there after all of the war crimes, after, you know, 40 percent economy contraction over the last 12 months,
after millions of refugees. But, leaving that aside there's a much bigger problem, Walter, and that is, it is impossible to get Russia back to the
status quo ante on February 23rd, even if you were to have a cease-fire you are going to have Ukraine, which is massively more armed and capable right
there on Russia's borders. You are going to have an expanded NATO with forward deployments, thousands and thousands of troops, much more
threatening to Russia than before.
ISAACSON: You're right. Couldn't we offer some security guarantees as part of a cease-fire?
BREMMER: Oh, sure. But not as part of a cease-fire. The security guarantees, if they were to come, would have to come on the basis of a
settlement, not a cease-fire. And we are very, very far from that. So, the point is, you can -- I can imagine through exhaustion, through an inability
to continue to fight, that at some point you could actually get much reduced fighting on the front lines. But Russia will be defeated and
humiliated on the global stage. Their life will be so much.
Well, I mean, after the Cuban Missile Crisis when both decided said, OK, this is stupid. Let's take a step back. The Soviets were in the same
position they were before the Cuban Missile Crisis. That is what is not possible here. I mean, Russia has made itself into a rogue state where
they're never going to be providing gas to the Europeans anymore. Nord Stream 1 and 2 have been sabotage. We don't know actually by who. But we
know that the Europeans have spent massive amounts of money to ensure they will never have to buy gas from Russia again.
ISAACSON: So, wait. What does it have need to have a rogue Russia?
BREMMER: Well, that's a good question, Walter. What it means, think about a rogue Iran, right? I mean, Iran is the country we think of as a rogue
state that's not a lot of our minds. It's a country that doesn't have nuclear weapons, unlike Russia, but they are the principal threat to
stability in the Middle East. And that -- what's that about? It is about proxy war and terrorist attacks and cyberattacks and espionage and drone
attacks and ballistic missile attacks.
So, a Russia as a rogue state for NATO would be a country that is a perpetual threat for those countries the way that Iran is a threat to
Israel, to Saudi Arabia, the UAE. That is a very serious problem. That's what happened when the peace dividend is over in Europe and you have a war.
Remember, the war that is going on right now with Ukraine is a proxy war with NATO. NATO is fighting Russia.
Now, they are fighting Russia using Western intelligence, Western weapons. They don't have soldiers on the ground in Ukraine. They are not doing a no-
fly zone. So, you don't have American fighter jets knocking Russian jets out of the sky. But from the Russian perspective, this is a war. And it is
a war that they are losing.
A temporary cease-fire between Russia and Ukraine does nothing to improve Putin's strategic position as a consequence of that, Walter.
ISAACSON: One of your present reductions last year, and I give you credit for it, was that President Xi Jinping's zero COVID policy, it wasn't going
to work, that there would be protests against it. Well, now, tell me, what is next now that he has changed that policy?
BREMMER: Well, first of all, what's next is that Xi Jinping increasingly is running his country the way Putin runs his country. One of the things
that we could count on in China, even though it is an authoritarian state, is that they were very thoughtful about long-term strategic policy. They
were getting all sorts of expert inputs from technocrats, from hard-liners, from pragmatic, you know, people that wanted a more market-oriented
Xi Jinping, in his last 10 years, has consolidated authority in historic ways. And he now has more power inside China than any leader since Mao. But
in the days of Mao, China didn't have that much impact for the global economy or for global political institutions or for national security, for
that matter. Now, they do.
And the fact that Xi Jinping decided, literally on a dime, to go from the most locked down COVID policy to the least and isn't providing any data,
any transparency on the numbers of cases, the numbers of deaths, or any new variants that might be popping up from what is right now the global
epicenter of the COVID pandemic in China means that there are also acts of dangers that emanate from China on the pandemic front.
I wish it was only that. But of course, when you have a leader with that much power that can make that kind of a decision on COVID, you are going to
see decisions like that made on the global economy as well, in technology issues, on national security.
And as much as the U.S.-China relationship is vastly more stable than the U.S.-Russia relationship, and both leaders wanted to remain so, there is
going to be a greater level of decoupling by Western multinationals away from China because of that extraordinary uncertainty, because they are not
getting the data out of China's economy because they don't understand what might happen in a week, a month, three months' time.
ISAACSON: Do you mean that American corporations, whether it be Apple or Tesla and others, are going to have to pull out of China?
BREMMER: I don't think they're going to have to pull out of China at all. I think there are very few corporations that will be required to pull out
of China. There are, of course, expert controls that the United States has started levying in China back last October on advanced semiconductors that
are seen as dual use for both the economy and for military purposes. If you were doing business in that sector, you can't do that business in China
anymore. Fair enough.
And if you or Google, or Facebook, and you wanted to do business with all of your data acquisition and search and social media, China won't let you
in. Most corporations can still do any business they want to do in China. The point is that, increasingly, that business looks more dangerous. It
looks more risky. So, they don't want to have to pay so much for it. That is why Apple is increasingly moving a lot of its production away from
China. They are not being forced to do it legally by the United States, they are just concerned about what the future portends inside the Chinese
economy with Xi Jinping that they don't have a very good read on.
They could make sudden very different decisions about the technology sector or others. And so, Apple is moving more to Vietnam and to other places
around the world. I think a lot of major U.S. corporations are increasingly going to look to (INAUDIBLE), to ensure as opposed to have so much of their
global production inside China.
ISAACSON: Why is there such a lack of global leadership these days?
BREMMER: I think there are a lot of reasons for that. One is because there is a feeling in many populations that their leaders ignored their own
working in middle classes. That has led to a my country first perspective. It is not just America first under Trump. Biden's U.S. foreign policy for
an American middle class, it is also a functional understanding that, if we are not getting that message through to main street in the United States,
we don't want to be involved in wars around the world.
Now, Ukraine has been the exception, and Walter, we have seen a lot of leadership from that United States on Ukraine, not just militarily, but
diplomatically and economically. It has made the G7 stronger. It's made NATO stronger. But, your question, even fits there because the developing
world looks at the West and says, you only care about Ukraine because it is a bunch of white people in Europe. If that was happening in Ethiopia, or
the DRC, or Yemen, you wouldn't say boo. So, why are we going to take the food prices, fertilizer, and energy prices on the chin? Why should we
support your sanctions and your votes when you don't care about us? And that also makes it harder to have global leadership when majority of the
world's 8 billion people don't trust that the United States, Japan, Germany, other wealthy countries, are going to lift a finger for them.
We are called donor countries. The wealthy democracies in the world. And yet, if you are sitting in a country like India or Sub-Saharan African
countries, you think that you are the ones that are doing the donating. It is your human capital and labor, it is your resources that are getting
exploited, and yet, you are the charity cases in the world? It really angers them. And that's another reason why we have a harder time a global
leadership right now.
ISAACSON: How do you see the protests in Iran playing out?
BREMMER: The protests in Iran are clearly -- there is no useful response by the Iranian government. It is months now. The only thing they've set is
more repression. They are not going to, in any way, take their demands on board. You are not looking at regime change in the near future. The numbers
of people that are demonstrating are still comparatively small, even though it's all over the country, and they are no particular leaders of this
opposition. It has been really grassroots from the young people, particularly women all over the country.
But it comes at the same time that the Iranians are nearing breakout nuclear capability and there is no possibility of going back to a nuclear
deal. The Americans would never provide that given what they are doing to their people on the ground and the Iranians won't take that risk to
compromise. And then, as we mentioned before, the Iranians are doing the most to provide support for Russia in this war.
So, you put all that together, with a new Israeli right-wing government led by Netanyahu, the potential for military confrontation in the Middle East
is actually gone up quite a bit.
ISAACSON: Let me go back to that. The fact that Iran will get some form of nuclear weaponry soon. What does that mean? What do we do? what should we
BREMMER: Well, you know, it's not -- it's certainly not guaranteed that they will acquire nuclear weapons. There are major risks to Iran's own
national security if they were to either make those moves and it was found out or announced that they were going to make those moves.
But part of the problem is that where they are stockpiling and doing their advanced, you know, high-grade uranium enrichment right now is buried deep
under a mountain. And Israeli National Security advisers will tell you that they don't have credible military options to disrupt or destroy that
nuclear capability. It's not like 10 or 20 years ago.
So, you want to put pressure on them, yes. You want to get prevent them from going nuclear, yes. But at the same time, the Americans wanted to
prevent Pakistan from going nuclear, India from going nuclear. We had sanctions on those countries for years as a consequence.
ISAACSON: Well, wait. Are you saying that Iran might go nuclear and we would just let it happen?
BREMMER: I am saying Iran might go nuclear, we would be extremely angry about it. I am sure we'd put more sanctions on. And ultimately, I suspect
we'd learn to live with it. And I'm not happy about that at all but we have done that with North Korea. I mean, our policy is denuclearization. It is
unacceptable for North Korea to have nuclear weapons. But it's a little like the princess bride, unacceptable may not mean what we think it means.
ISAACSON: We're now at the second anniversary of the January 6th insurrection. And in a weird way, we have seen its echoes in the
dysfunction in the House of Representatives this week. To what extent do you think we have recovered or can recovered from that threat to our
BREMMER: I think that we have recovered from that specific threat to our democracy. I think that after January 6th, there was a tail risk. Small but
real and growing that the U.S. could be heading for a constitutional crisis in the presidential election in 2024.
So, Trump, for example, becomes the Republican nominee. It's a close election. Say he loses. But you have people in positions of power
overseeing state elections, secretaries of state, governors that decide that they're going to help him try to steal the election. He can't overturn
it, but he can break it. I think that the potential of that happening in 2024 is now virtually zero. Because -- not because Democrats, you know,
were able to hold the Senate, or because there wasn't a red wave, no. Rather because truly incompetent people running for some core positions
that would oversee state elections, those people lost.
And so, you just don't have people in positions of power that are prepared to try to steal or break the election. Remember, when Trump tried to do
that after January 6th, and in the run up to January 6th, when he was calling Republican Party members in Georgia and Arizona, find me some
votes. I want to steal this election. That is basically what he did. We found that in the January 6th Committee investigations.
Republican Party members, rank and file, said, no. And they said no because fundamentally, they may be conservative, they may be Republican, it doesn't
matter, they are American. And first and foremost, they believe in the rule of law, just like the police do, just like the military does. And it turns
out that that really matters in a country like the United States.
The U.S. was tested and the U.S. responded. And I think, at least, in the near term, plenty of deep structural challenges with democracy in the
United States that we could address it on many, many shows in the future. But specifically, to answer your question on January 6th, we do not face
approximate crisis of democracy in this country.
ISAACSON: Ian Bremmer, as always, thank you for joining us.
BREMMER: Thank you so much, Walter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: A fascinating look at geopolitical hotspots in 2023, including here in the U.S.
And finally, this week Catholics around the world bid farewell to Pope Benedict XVI. He was laid to rest on Thursday at St. Peter's Basilica in
Rome. Pope Francis presided over the funeral of his predecessor. The first time that has ever happened.
Benedict's death also marked the end of an era that had not one, but two living popes. That unusual situation was immortalized in the 2019 Netflix
movie, "The Two Popes," which was inspired by true events. Here is a clip of the trailer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The grand doors had slammed shut and will remain so until the next pope had chosen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From that balcony up there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing is static in nature, not even God.
ANTHONY HOPKINS, ACTOR, "THE TWO POPES: (INAUDIBLE).
JONATHAN PRYCE, ACTOR, "THE TWO POPES: On the journey?
HOPKINS: That's where find God, over there, on the journey. I'll introduce you to him.
HOPKINS: Being the popo, you must remember that you are not God, you're only human.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Anthony Hopkins plays Pope Benedict and Jonathan Pryce stars of the soon to be elected Pope Francis. So, let's take a look back at part of
Christiane's interview with Pryce about the film.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: So, "The Two Popes" is getting a huge amount of attention and critical review. Very good
critical acclaim. I have watched it. It is amazing. I just want to know, were you born to play this part? I mean, you look identical to Pope
JONATHAN PRYCE, ACTOR, "THE TWO POPES: Well, yes. I mean, it is not what I see when I look in the mirror. I feel more Brad Pitt than Pope Francis.
Yes. The day he was declared pope was the -- the internet was full of images of the two of us, either me or High Sparrow compared to the pope.
And it seemed a sudden inevitability that I -- you know, if there ever was to be a film about him, that I would play him.
AMANPOUR: Did you have any inkling that there might be? I mean, and that this might actually happen and happened in this way? Because, I mean, the
vehicle is so compelling. Essentially, tight shots of you and Anthony Hopkins playing to living popes and really mostly just a discussion between
you. I mean, an important one but It is not action and adventure and intrigue and, you know, Vatican hide crimes and skullduggery.
PRYCE: Well, it is about all those things. High crimes and skullduggery. It is also about faith and about forgiveness and compassion. And when you
read it on the -- you know, you get the screenplay sent to you and it seems a very dry read. It's two men of the church, two old men of the church,
having a debate and an argument and there are flashbacks to Bergoglio's life in Buenos Aires.
But, you know, if -- when you know that it is going to be directed by Fernando Meirelles who has a wonderful film that is one of my favorite all-
time films -- all-time favorite films, "City of God," there is going to be a different kind of energy to it. It wasn't going to be hagiography, it was
going to have some life and vitality and have a political point of view, as well as a religious point of view.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, let's break that down because, again, you embody Pope Francis in a way that's just -- I mean, it's eerie really. And you start to
really believe that Anthony Hopkins is the spitting image of Pope Benedict. And the two of you are having these discussions. And let's just talk first
about the politics. Because I guess -- explain to me where the politics are for you and for the two popes.
PRYCE: Yes. Well, I am not religious. When I was a child, I was brought up in a Welsh Presbyterian Church. I used to go to chapel. And like many
teenagers, moved away from the church. And not being a catholic, I had never really taken much notice of any popes. I was aware of them to a
certain extent. But Pope Francis was the first pope that I began to listen to because not only was on -- he was on our TV screens and our newspapers
were full of him, he was -- I felt like he was talking to me. And he was talking to be about political issues and about the economy, about the
inequality of the world.
He was talking about the environment. He was talking about issues that me and millions like me want to hear our leaders talk about. So, I was drawn
to him because of these issues, less to do with the church.
AMANPOUR: And Bergoglio, in the film, talks a lot about walls. Walls become a very important motif through the film. Just describe for us the
politics of the wall and what the film is saying about that.
PRYCE: Well, it's very simple image. I mean, it's an image, I'll just say, comes in towards the end of the film where everything they have been
talking about, especially what Francis has been talking about, is we opened it up to see these images from the rest of the world.
And he was one of the first people who was talking about building bridges and not walls and the -- you know, the irony is that all of these walls are
going up with people, want to build walls in America, in Eastern Europe, and we need to break these walls down. We need to reach out to people. We
need to have a civilized debate.
And what this film shows rather wonderfully is that we can debate these issues. Two men with very different views of the church and about society
in general, but they can talk about them. And we need to talk about them.
AMANPOUR: Jonathan Pryce, thank you so much for joining us.
PRYCE: Well, thank you. It is nice to talk to you again. Thanks.
AMANPOUR: You too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Building bridges, not walls. Well, we certainly need more of that. And that is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our
podcast, and across social media. It is great to be back with you. Thanks so much for watching and goodbye from New York.