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Chinese President Xi To Meet With Putin In Russia Next Week; Turkey Agrees To Start Process For Finland's NATO Membership; Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY), Is Interviewed About Banks Extend $30b Lifeline To First Republic Bank. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired March 17, 2023 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone. At This Hour, the details on why China's President is headed to meet with Vladimir Putin. A friendship they've declared his quote, no limits. Plus, a double whammy for Florida, algae blooms now threatening the state's east and west coasts, what they're doing now and also to prepare for more. And taking to the streets, protests and clashes with police in France after the president their moves to raise the retirement age. This is what we're watching At This Hour.

Thank you so much for being here. I'm Kate Bolduan. It's a milestone a potentially troubling development and a bold statement on the growing partnership between Russia and China. Chinese President Xi Jinping announcing that he will travel to Moscow next week to meet with Vladimir Putin. This will be Xi's first trip to Russia since Putin launched the invasion of Ukraine.

China says that the visit is meant to promote peace and that Xi will uphold Beijing's neutral position on international issues including the war in Ukraine. But this comes after CNN has learned of course that the U.S. has intelligence suggesting China's considering providing lethal aid like weapons to Russia's war effort. A move the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. said would cross a red line. China has denied that intention.

In another key development, Turkey's president just announced moments ago that his country has agreed to start the process to move forward with the process of ratifying Finland's NATO membership, a significant move at this hour. NATO requires the unanimous approval of its 30 existing members in order to expand. We're going to get to it. Let's start with Will Ripley live in Taipei for us At This Hour. Will first on this trip that Xi is planning, what are you learning about the plans for him heading to Russia?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the big question, and certainly they're watching very closely here in Taiwan is whether Xi will, you know, agree to provide Putin with these lethal weapons that the United States strongly suspects that China might do. I mean, they've already been providing things like high tech chips and parts that could be used, you know, dual use parts for both military and civilian, as well as parts that are, you know, overtly labeled for military use.

A hundreds of them have been flowing in from various defense companies in China since the beginning of the war, but lethal weapons, providing ammunition, the type of things that could actually help turn the tide potentially, for struggling Russian forces on the ground, giving them the kind of equipment that they don't have that China has a plenty, that would be potentially very problematic for Ukraine's efforts to resist and push back the Russians.

And it also would be China and Russia, sending a message to the West that despite sanctions, despite warnings, they are going to go their own way. That is a very dangerous message if indeed, that message is sent, because that also indicates that China's potential ambitions for Taiwan and possibly other places beyond Taiwan now become much more of a feasible possibility. If indeed, you know, China's weapons actually were to help Russia, humiliate the United States and NATO by, you know, helping Russia actually win on the battlefield in Ukraine. And some analysts say that might be exactly why China could and Xi could consider doing this.

BOLDUAN: Well, it's always good to see you. Thank you.

So Ukraine is also getting a big boost today from two European allies, Poland has announced that it will be sending for MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine in the coming days. This will be the first NATO member to do so. And now Slovakia is also following suit announcing this morning that it will send Ukraine more than a dozen fighter jets. It is seen as a significant move which could help Ukraine in its battle against Russia's -- Russian forces in the East including in Bakhmut.

Ivan Watson is live in Kharkiv with more on this. We've talked so it for so long of the ask and pleading coming from President Zelenskyy for fighter jets. What are you hearing now that we have this announcement and what it could mean for Ukraine's fight?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, he has thanked Ukraine's small eastern European neighbors, Slovakia for the announcement today that it will give more than a dozen of these MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine. That announcement coming just a day after Poland announced that it would give within a matter of days according to the Polish president four of these MiG -- MiGs, as well as potentially a dozen or more down the road.


Do keep in mind I met both Slovakia and Poland made similar announcements last year and didn't follow through, didn't quite work out the donation of these if they do, in fact end up in Ukraine's arsenal, they do a couple of roles. They're symbolic. They'll help also with Ukraine aid has been flying its fighter jets, Russia never managed to conquer the skies over Ukraine. And this kind of equipment wears out, especially since a lot of these planes that even Ukraine has are 20, 30 years old, they date back to the Soviet Union. They also sent a strong message to Moscow, that Europe, NATO, they're still lockstep with Ukrainians. And this coming just a couple of months after Germany and the U.S. announced that they would be sending modern battle tanks to help Ukraine, that there are a lot of Ukrainian troops being trained on various weapons systems in Europe as well. This is a war of attrition between a much larger military force, Russia and Ukraine, which is fighting an existential war to protect itself basically, as a country.

And both sides are trying to bleed each other out. And we're hearing those kinds of statements coming from the Ukrainians in the ground fighting, that's where most of the fighting is taking place, not in the skies, and that's where the infantry are dying and being mutilated day after day, where ammunition is being used up at a tremendous rate, and a, Kate, very importantly, where civilians are dying and being wounded day after day in frontline cities and towns by the long range artillery being hurled here under Ukrainian territory. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Yes, Ivan, thank you for making that very important point. It's good to see you. Thanks for the reporting. Join me now for more on all of this is John Herbst, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, and retired general Philip Breedlove, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander of Europe. Ambassador, let's start with the reaction to this news that we got just as I was walking into the studio after resisting Finland's bid to join NATO for so long, Turkey is now says that it will support it. Turkey agreeing hearing from a Turkish president himself saying that Turkey is going to start the process for Finland's NATO membership. What does this mean for NATO?

JOHN HERBST, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: This is good news. And it's not surprising. Finland is a country with a modern military. And it will add to NATO strengths in the north. And I love General Breedlove I'm sure can say more about that. And it's also a strong sign to Russia that its aggression in Ukraine has consequences. It should also be a reminder to Americans who don't understand the importance of defeating Putin in Ukraine, that alone neutral countries like Sweden and Finland now want to join NATO because he Russia is a very great danger.

BOLDUAN: General, what's your reaction to this development?

GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE (RET.), FMR. NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER EUROPE: Well, I agree with the ambassador, this is good news. But it's not all the good news we need. And that is we look forward now to Turkey making the same move towards Sweden. And what we don't want to see is a delay of Sweden downrange. So celebrate what is going on with Finland. And now begin to work hard on bringing Sweden alongside. And the ambassador is exactly right. Both of these militaries are very capable, very modern militaries who have exercised extensively with NATO, and they're ready to contribute immediately.

BOLDUAN: It really is also quite a statement, Ambassador, as you look at one of the intentions of Vladimir Putin all along was to create divisions and fissures within NATO, in this conflict. And now what we're seeing is NATO expanding. HERBST: Correct. Putin has been the great unifier of NATO, as well as of different groups within Ukraine, by his aggression. And it's worth pointing out that Russia said that Finland and Sweden joining NATO was a red line. And in fact, it's Putin to be no red line at all. He likes to bluff especially with nuclear weapons in order to deter us from defending our own interests.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk also about this move. I was talking about with Ivan Watson to send fighter jets to Ukraine from Poland and Slovakia. Let's talk about it from obviously your two very important perspectives. Ambassador, what do you think of Poland and Slovakia in making this move and making it first?

HERBST: Look, this is very good news as well. This decision should have been taken a year ago. But we've seen within the West certain slowness and caution and sending Ukraine everything it needs. This is good news again. And I think it may mean that eventually and sooner rather than later F-16s may also be on their way.

BOLDUAN: Because I was going to ask that exact question, General. Do you think that this puts more pressure on President Biden now or should or influences his decision and timing on sending F-16s?

BREEDLOVE: Well, I'm not sure that it, quote unquote, puts more pressure on President Biden. But what is clear is that our European partners are taking the policy lead. They are taking this step in front of the United States. And I think now, they're going to lead in some of these cases and the United States will possibly and hopefully follow. And the great news in a tactical sense is these are aircraft that can be brought into service, the pilots are already trained on them, that will have an immediate impact. We would hope then, that U.S. and more Western fourth generation aircraft will be added for the longer term sustainment of this Air Force.


BOLDUAN: General, let me also ask you on another big story this week, the Russian fighter jet forcing down a U.S. drone over the Black Sea. CNN is reporting now that the U.S. military is now conducting an assessment of its drone operations over the Black Sea, and how to better deconflict with Russia. Do you think that this is necessary? And what do you think that could mean -- what do you think that could resulted and mean?

BREEDLOVE: Well, I think that what the President and others have said the Secretary of Defense and General Milley have said is that we're not going to cease operations. And I would hope that they would not now be discussing ceasing operations continuing to operate in international airspace. And if you look at a map where this where this knockdown occurred, it's well clear, many miles clear of anything.

Ukrainian as we remember, Crimea, Crimea is a Ukrainian Peninsula. And it's very clear that Crimea and airspace and so we need to stick to our guns when it comes to operating in international airspace. I think, not to belabor but I think one of the most important things here is not really being talked about in the press or others. And that is, it's pretty clear now that this was a deliberate act. We haven't even seen all of the film, but we've seen a good and very important part of the film. And this were -- they were deliberately harassing and trying to affect the flight of this drone.

And so that tactically is important, but more important strategically is Russia has taken a policy decision to physically knock down drones in international airspace. And that I think, requires a policy reply from the West, and certainly the United States as we are aggrieved.

BOLDUAN: General, thank you for your time, as always. Ambassador, it's great to see you, thank you.

A $30 billion lifeline the country's biggest banks lending a major helping hand to one of their competitors, why and what it means for financial stability right now. That's next.



BOLDUAN: President Biden is meeting with Ireland's Prime Minister on this St. Patrick's Day. Later, they're going to be heading to Capitol Hill for a luncheon with lawmakers. And they spoke just moments ago from the White House. Listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you on a subsequent matter standing together on Ukraine. It a -- it means a great deal speaking out against Russia's brutal aggression and our deepening economic ties. We have a lot to talk about. And, you know, I've spent some time with the Prime Minister of Great Britain. And I'm very much very strongly supported the Windsor framework, which I know you do, too, Mike will get a chance to talk about that. And for us, the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement is something that a very good friend of mine quoted a lot of us like to George Mitchell, and we had criticals. So I'm looking forward to meeting, you know, and having our celebration together and a lot to talk about.


BOLDUAN: So this week, also this we're going to continue to watch the President is meeting with the Prime Minister, as it continues through the day. Also this week, this it began with the second biggest bank failure in U.S. history. That happened in less than 48 hours as we've been discussing all week. And now the week is wrapping up with the biggest banks in the United States jumping into rescue. Another regional bank, First Republic, is getting a $30 billion lifeline from the likes of JPMorgan, Citigroup, Bank of America and more.

CNN's chief business correspondent Christine Romans is here with much more on this. I mean, it was quite something to see for these private institutions. It's quite a move and quite a something. What are you hearing about it?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: So a source who was involved with this said this was about the banking industry, quote, pulling together and showing our confidence in the American banking system and specifically, in First Republic. Why First Republic? This source tells me it's the biggest example of a bank that could go down and shouldn't go down.

It was a first class bank that they were worried could trigger a chain reaction in other banks that were had seen a run on their deposits. So this is really a remarkable 48 hours. This source explaining to me Tuesday afternoon, Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase was going down to Washington, D.C. for already scheduled banking industry meetings. He met with Janet Yellen, the Treasury Secretary, talked to regulators, talk to other bankers.

And very quickly they coalesced around this idea of putting deposits into First Republic, $30 billion in uninsured deposits. And as the source told me, you know, no special rate, no special deal, no taxpayer influence just the industry showing confidence in First Republic and in the banking sector. Everybody now is a little bit more skin in the game and really just remarkable 48 hours how this rolled through, you know, wrangling cats at one point, you know, calling people making sure that all the banks are on board and the regulators are all on board. And that's the result.


Now the stock is down here today, Kate. And I think the reason why here is because these stocks, the worry is they're not going to make as much money as they used to, right, in this new environment. So this is --

KOTB: A lot of things at play.

ROMANS: Right, right. So it's not like existential, like the word, they're going to go out of business anymore. It's now they're worried about how much they're going to make money. So customers have been protected, investors not so much.

KOTB: OK. And it continues, but also there's a new a new snapshot of the economy out this morning, new consumer sentiment report, what does it show?

ROMANS: So this consumer sentiment numbers show it fell for the first time in four months. What's interesting to me about this, this survey was mostly taken before the bank drama. So this is inflation. Consumers a little concerned about inflation. And maybe what we've heard about in banking over the past six days, could hurt this number in the future, but it shows Americans a little less confident than they were in the month before.

And, you know, maybe angst about inflation, I think is the most important thing there. A little bit of a rearview mirror look. But the banking issue, I'll just say, the fires have been put out, members might be still burning, but the fires have been put out for now. And I think the volatility in the stocks is one thing, but I think Americans know they can rest assured that their money is going to be in the bank. BOLDUAN: I'm having a hard time watching the stocks on this one, because --

ROMANS: Don't watch them.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Christine. Thank you.

ROMANS: Set it and forget it.

BOLDUAN: Exactly. Long has been your advice on this. Long has been your advice. Good to see. Thank you so much.

Joining me now to talk more about this is Democratic Congressman Ritchie Torres of New York. He sits on the House Financial Services Committee, which has promised investigations and a lot of work ahead on this abrupt collapse of SVB and the fallout from it. Congressman, thanks for coming in. You're working on a few pieces of legislation now in the wake of the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank strengthening Treasury Department oversight is one and also if I'm speaking generally expanding the Feds mandate.

But the chair of your committee says that he thinks it's way too soon to be to say whether new legislation is even necessary, while you're still trying to figure out what really went wrong. Why do you think the time is now?

REP. RITCHIE TORRES (D-NY), FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE: Well, look, I mean, we have to examine what went wrong. We know that there have been failures at the level of regulation and supervision and management. But I don't think it's too early. I think the legislative process is deliberative. And we should start exploring what are the solutions that are going to prevent a repeat of these bank failures in the future.

And the federal government has an obligation to protect the safety and soundness of our banking system, which is the cornerstone of our economy. Without a banking system, our economy will come crashing down. So we must do everything we can to protect our banking system and to prevent a cascade of bank failures.

BOLDUAN: When are -- when will you feel comfortable saying that the banking system is back on -- is back on solid ground if you will, I mean, when are you going to feel that you think we're past this scare. My colleague Christine Romans, the way she's describing it, in the sense that she's getting now is like the fire is out, but the embers are still burning up.

TORRES: Look, I think when, if we can prevent a surge in mass redemptions and deposit withdrawals, and if banks have enough liquidity to honor the deposits of their customers. That is the point at which the banking system has stabilized. I do worry about the impact of interest rates on the stability of the banking system. You know, the Fed has a dual mandate of considering employment and inflation, a case could be made that we should expand that mandate to include financial stability. The Fed has been raising interest rates too high too fast. I worry that it runs the risk of destabilizing the banking system. And so the Fed should think twice about raising interest rates in the short term.

BOLDUAN: You also sit on the New House Select Committee on China. And as we've been talking about this, our President Xi is going to go into Russia next week to visit with Vladimir Putin. Yet he also wants to present himself as a neutral peace broker for Ukraine. Do you see China having a role in bringing this war to a peaceful end?

TORRES: I have trouble imagining China bringing the war to a peaceful resolution because China has been enabling the war crimes that Russia has committed against Ukrainian people. China has enabled the illegal evasion invasion of Ukraine. So as far as I'm concerned, the CCP is part of the problem rather than part of the solution. And if the United States had allowed Russia to invade Ukraine with impunity, it would have emboldened the CCP to do the same with respect to Taiwan.

BOLDUAN: My colleague Lauren Fox, it's term but this is an important topic I wanted to bring up with you, my colleague, Lauren Fox, who has done some great and important reporting this week, members of Congress who are now talking very publicly about their personal experiences with mental health treatment and I have heard you speak about this publicly as well, and you've said that that you don't believe that you would be alive today, if not for the power of mental health care. Congressman, why is it important for you to share your story?


TORRES: Look, we're living in a time where Americans are facing historic rates of anxiety and depression, especially amid social media, amid the isolation of COVID-19. And as a public figure, I feel a profound sense of obligation to share my own struggles with depression in order to break the stigma and silence that often surrounds the subject of mental health. Mental health is too important to be a taboo subject in America. And I want to be part of the solution. I want to inspire people to see hope and to see a way forward for themselves.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, thank you for that. And thanks for coming on.

TORRES: Of course.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

We have some breaking news, really important breaking news to turn to right now. Moments ago, we're just now learning that the ICC the International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant against Vladimir Putin and a another Russian official, both are at the center of alleged -- an alleged scheme to forcibly deport thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia. This is a topic that we've been talking about so much on the show. Let me get back to Ivan Watson. He's back in here. He's joining me now with more on this. Ivan, what are you hearing about this?

WATSON: Well, I mean, the headline here is the International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin. They've also issued an arrest warrant for a second Russian official that I don't think people will recognize her name. Her name is Maria Lvova-Belova and she is the Commissioner for Children's Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation. In this statement, the ICC is basically accusing the two of them of being complicit in the abduction, the alleged abduction of Ukrainian children from territory in Ukraine occupied by the Russian military and taking them to Russian territory.

Now, Russia has been very public about saying that it has taken Russian -- Ukrainian children to Russia has basically played up the adoption of some of these children and basically claiming that they're rescuing these kids. The ICC clearly views this very differently, saying that this is illegal, what it's doing, and has taken, I think, a very precedent breaking step of again, issuing an arrest warrant against Vladimir Putin himself against one of his top officials, accusing them of kidnapping Ukrainian children, basically, since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year. Kate?

BOLDUAN: And you know, Ivan, and Ivan, I had the former ambassador at large for war crimes issues Stephen Rapp on earlier this week. And this was one of the issues that we were talking about. And he said he was just in Lviv speaking to a child who was able to be returned from Russia only because their family member went to extreme lengths in order to try to find them after they say that this allegedly happened to this child.

And the thing is, it's pretty hard right now to even know the scope of how of how many children have been taken, kidnapped, abducted and taken to Russia. The United States has put the number at somewhere at let's say at least 6,000. But I have heard Ukrainian officials put it north of 16,000.

WATSON: Yes, and it just -- this is part of the terrible and bloody fog of war. I mean, you have entire cities that had populations of hundreds of thousands of people that had been smashed, reduced to rubble, children orphaned, and probably bodies that have yet to be found of some of this civilian casualties as a result of this catastrophic invasion. So one of the remarkable I don't know, one of the things that's going on behind the scenes as the two armies are killing each other on the front lines day after day is that you have prosecutors.

You have investigators on the ground, also gathering information as the battles are taking place, trying to build cases basically against the Russian military of alleged war crimes on the ground here. The alleged abduction of thousands of Ukrainian children, that is but one piece of this it is the one that the ICC has focused on the most.


So I would guess that they see that there is a cut and dry kind of international law that is being broken here with the movement of juveniles of minors across international borders without the permission of the parents.