Return to Transcripts main page

The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

U.S. Warnings About Russia; Tonga Volcano Aftermath; Microsoft's Big Move. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired January 18, 2022 - 17:00   ET



BIANCA NOBILO, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome. This is THE GLOBAL BRIEF. I'm Bianca Nobilo in London.

Tonight, we are now at the stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack. That the warning from the U.S. this hour. We're live in Moscow.

Then, we're beginning to see how widespread the devastation is in Tonga following a devastating volcano. On one island, every home has been


And Microsoft makes the big move in the gaming marketplace. That's story up ahead.

The White House says the crisis over Ukraine has reached a stage where Russia could invade at any point, giving added urgency to a new round of

diplomacy meant to stave off war in Europe. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have agreed to meet in

Geneva on Friday.

Blinken will first stop in Ukraine, as well as Germany for talks with European allies. Lavrov hosted Germany's foreign minister on Tuesday. He's

accusing NATO of a double standard by making demands about Russian troop movements near Ukraine while NATO takes actions concerning Moscow.

Ukraine is getting not only pledges of support from the West but also some military aid. These weapons that you're looking at arrived from the U.K. on

Monday. Both Britain and Ukraine say they're for strictly defensive purposes should Russia invade. The White House calls the crisis extremely



JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No option is off the table. In our view, we continue consulting closely with European counterparts on severe

consequences for Russia if it further invades Ukraine.


NOBILO: This was the position of Russian forces near Ukraine before Moscow sent troops to Belarus for military drills. Ukraine tells CNN that Russia

has almost completed its buildup of more than 127,000 troops that could be used in an invasion.

Our Matthew Chance has more.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's the video complete with soundtrack put out by the Ukrainian defense being fired to

the beat, javelin anti-tank missiles, supplied by the U.S. as part of its growing military support.

It's these kinds of weapons cranes will help stop another Russian invasion once more.

Cue a flurry of diplomatic fist bumps and grand promises of U.S. support. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Blinken visits Kyiv, but only this week a

congressional delegation was here.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, U.S. SENATE DEMOCRAT: I think Vladimir Putin has made the biggest mistake of his career.

CHANCE: Vowing more tough action in Washington against Russian aggression.

BLUMENTHAL: We will impose crippling economic sanctions, but more important, we will give the people of Ukraine the arms, lethal arms they

need to defend their lives and livelihoods.

CHANCE: It certainly doesn't look deterred.

These are the latest images of Russia's live fire military exercises near its border. With the latest Ukrainian intelligence assessment obtained

exclusively by CNN says Russia has almost completed its military buildup.

The assessment says there are now more than 127,000 Russian troops poised to invade, including Russian infantry units seen here practicing urban

warfare, the kind that may play a major role in any potentially messy incursion to Ukraine is ever ordered.

Sources in rebel-controlled eastern areas of the country tells CNN training has also been ramped up there, with a significant increase of rebel

fighters and heavy weaponry on the front lines. New Ukrainian intelligence assessment says Russia supports more than 35,000 rebels and has about 3,000

of its own military based in Russian territory. Moscow denies having any forces there and continues to insist it has no plans either to invade.

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): We do not threaten anyone, but we hear threats against us. I hope all of this only

reflects emotions within a camp of western countries. We'll be guided by concrete steps and deeds.

CHANCE: But those deeds and steps seem to point to escalation. These are new images showing troops from Russia and its ally Belarus preparing for

joint exercises near Ukraine's northern border. It may be just a distraction, but as Russia continues to mass forces, Ukrainian intelligence

says it now sees this region as a full-fledged Russian theater of operation.


In other words, another dangerous potential front line.


NOBILO: Matthew Chance reporting there from Kiev.

Let's now go to Moscow. Fred Pleitgen joins us there live.

Fred, we've been hearing this week more from the German foreign minister that they're getting more involved in the discussions and they're expecting

meetings later this week. Does diplomacy still stand a chance at this point?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it certainly does, and I think some of the things we've seen over the course

of the day and over the past couple days shows that all sides really are still trying to get the diplomacy going and hoping that it will make a

difference. It was quite exciting to see at the press conference today, the German foreign minister speak more forcefully than I've seen in a lot of


One of the things that Annalena Baerbock said was that the big project right now between Russia and Germany, which is, of course, the Nord Stream

II pipeline, that that would be in danger, she said, if there was any further incursion by the Russians into Ukraine or any other sort of

military escalation. That's a big step for the Germans because obviously it would mean a lot of economic difficulties for them.

But she also said in order to help defend European values, as she put it, Germany might have to sacrifice some of those economic gains that it could

make by having the cheap gas coming from Russia. The Germans also saying that what they're seeing from the Russians certainly does seem to point to

Russian aggression.

Let's listen to what she had the say.


ANNALENA BAERBOCK, GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Over the past few weeks, more than 100,000 Russian troops, equipment, and tanks have

been deployed near Ukraine for no reason. It's hard not to see that as a threat.


PLEITGEN: Of course, we also saw in that report from Matthew that the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, he obviously also had a lot of

things to say on this day, and the Russians are saying they're still waiting for the United States to answer some of the demands that Russians

had made for Russian security.

Of course, first and foremost, no more NATO enlargement is something they demand, but then, of course, the core is really that they don't want

Ukraine to ever become a member of NATO. The Russians say they want those answers soon. The U.S. of course says those answers can only be negative.

They say a lot of those things are nonstarters for the U.S.

But I do think that one of the things that really does offer a glimmer of hope is the fact that we have this meeting scheduled between Sergey Lavrov,

the Russian foreign minister, and Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, because keep in mind, after the first round of security talks that

happened in Geneva, the Russians were saying, they're so disappointed that really weren't sure whether follow-on talks would happen at all.

NOBILO: And while diplomacy can give us some cause for optimism, when you and I were speaking earlier, Fred, you were talking about the further

movements of Russian troops into Belarus encircling Ukraine, getting very close to Poland.

How do you interpret those actions?

PLEITGEN: Yeah. I mean, certainly -- it certainly seems as though that could be part of that Russian troop buildup we have been seeing in and

around Ukraine. The Ukrainians are saying that they are increasingly feeling encircled by Russia and of course also by Russian allies like, for

instance, Belarus, because one of the things we have to keep in mind is that the Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko not too long ago, he said

if there was a conflict between Russia and the West, the Belarusians would firmly be in the corner of Russia.

And I think one of the things that really concerns the Ukrainians is the fact that those military exercises do appear to be taking place or will

take place sort of in mid February, and the areas they take place is near the border with Poland, but also very much near the border with Ukraine as

well, and that certainly will make it difficult for the Ukrainians to defend themselves if there was any sort of invasion, because there are

three sides troops could potentially be coming from.

I mean, it's another one of those things where you do see that buildup ongoing and really where on the ground, things seem to be pointing more

towards a buildup, possible escalation rather than de-escalation, Bianca.

NOBILO: Ukrainians must have a real sense of foreboding being encircled in that way. And I know you've been spending a lot of time there, Fred. Thank

you for joining us and for your insights. We'll speak to you soon. Fred Pleitgen in Moscow.

Surveillance planes are giving us our first glimpses of the destruction in Tonga. The country has been largely cut off from the rest of the world when

a massive volcano erupted, triggering a tsunami.

These photos show a Tongan island blanketed in thick volcanic ash, the same ash is threatening water supplies and a complicating aid deliveries. At

least three people in Tonga have died.

The government has declared a state of emergency as it works to assess the damage and try to figure out what help it needs.

CNN correspondent Paula Hancocks tells us what we know and don't know about the disaster's aftermath.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Before and after satellite images show the devastation in Tonga.


Volcanic ash is covering entire communities, homes, trees, roads, blanketed. Neighborhoods unrecognizable.

The New Zealand defense force set a reconnaissance flight to assess the damage. The runway of the airport is partially covered, meaning

humanitarian flights are currently impossible for a population of more than 100,000.

Saturday's eruption of an underwater volcano triggered a tsunami. The prime minster says waves up to 15 meters hit parts of the Tongan coastline.

Tsunami waves for fell thousands of miles away in Peru, and Japan and the West Coast of the United States.

SHANE CRONIN, UNIVERSITY OF AUCKLAND: While the damage is horrifying, we were fearing much worse. It was so powerful, that eruption.

HANCOCKS: Believed to be the most powerful volcanic eruption in more than 30 years, the true extent of the damage is not yet known.

New Zealand and Australia had deployed ships laden with humanitarian goods to Tonga which would take at least three days to get there.

ALEXANDER MATHEOU, INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF RED CROSS & RED CRESCENT: Water will have been affected by the ash and by the tsunami waves. So,

access to clean drinking water is number one. Number two is anybody who is living in coastal areas where houses have been damaged by the tsunami waves

will be in need of shelter support.

HANCOCKS: Third, the need to restore communication. An understood water communications cable from Tonga to Fiji is damaged. Officials say repairs

may not be able to begin until the start of next month. Tongans living overseas can only wait helplessly to hear from family.

SEINI TAUMOEPEAU, TONGAN-AUSTRALIAN ARTIST AND ACTIVIST: The worst fear is always that you're not going to see the people that you love again. Yeah,

that's the worst fear.

HANCOCKS: The first victim named Tuesday, British woman Angela Glover who moved to Tonga to set up an animal welfare charity. Her brother says she

was swept away while trying to rescue her dogs.

NICK ELEINI, TSUNAMI VICTIM'S BROTHER: Angela was the heart of our family, the emotional heart of our family, and, you know, that heart is now -- is

now gone.

HANCOCKS: And complicating an already desperate situation, the pandemic. A country that has largely protected itself from the worst of COVID now has

to balance the risk of infection coming in with the much needed humanitarian aid.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Melbourne, Australia.


NOBILO: In the U.S., negotiators are scrambling to find a compromise ahead of Wednesday's rollout of 5G mobile network technology, which airlines say

will cause problems and lead to major flight delays. Without a solution in place, a number of international airlines have started canceling flights

into the U.S., including Emirates, Air India, and Japan Airlines.

Airlines say the technology may interfere with radar altimeters used for landing. The telecom industry says that those fears are unfounded. AT&T and

Verizon both announced Tuesday they'll delay activating 5G on limited towers around certain airports but will continue launching everywhere else.

Now, let's take a look at the other key stories making international impact today.

U.N. secretary general has condemned Monday's air strikes in Yemen's capital by the Saudi-led coalition and is calling for restraint from all

parties in Yemen conflict. Iranian-backed Houthi rebels said the strikes killed at least 12 people, including civilians. The strikes for retaliation

for a deadly drone strike in Abu Dhabi.

Indonesia is moving its capital city. Parliament approved a plan Tuesday to relieve congestion and pollution in Jakarta, by relocating the government.

The new capital will be deep in the jungles of Borneo. Building the city will cause more than $30 billions and will take several years to complete.

A conservative Maltese lawmaker has been elected as the new president of the European Parliament. Roberta Metsola was voted in on her 43rd birthday

with overwhelming support. She's the youngest to ever hold the position and the first woman in 20 years. Metsola succeeds Italian socialist David

Sassoli who died this month.

As the newly elected president took questions from reporters, she was asked about her views on abortion, which is legal in almost all of the E.U., but

not Malta. She's faced criticism for voting there's year against a resolution demanding the right to save abortion. Here's what she said when

a journalist brought it up.


ROBERTA METSOLA, EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT PRESIDENT: The context you referred to was a specific Maltese one, which is known to you all, and that has

bound Maltese members of the European Parliament as we joined the European Union. But now, I'm president of the European Parliament, and the reports

you mentioned together with all other resolutions will be the position that I would promote, not only in-house, but also within the other institutions.


NOBILO: Boris Johnson's former chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, has said he would swear under oath he warned the prime minster the party in the

Number 10 garden during lockdown would be breaking the rules.


Johnson denies this. But if true, it would mean that Johnson had misled parliament, and that could end his premiership. Now, keep in mind, of

course, there's no love lost between couplings and Johnson since the former left government, but has Johnson ever been fired for lying before? The

answer is yes.

In 2004, Johnson was sacked for appearing to lie over allegations of an affair when he was an opposition minister. And back in 1988, he was fired

from "The Times" newspaper for fabricating a quote, and it's a criticism that's followed him throughout his public life.

Last year, the leaders of no less than six opposition parties in the House of Commons wrote a letter accusing Johnson of a consistent failure to be

honest with the facts.

But accusations of lying and calls for him to resign have never been louder than they are right now.

So, why could misleading parliament be the career ender of a prime minster? If the minister is shown to have lied to parliament, they're expected to

resign or be sacked. Now, the prime minster can't sack himself so he'd be expected to resign, with force of parliament pressuring him to do so.

The ministerial code also says that ministers should be truthful, but it's ultimately up to the prime minister to order an investigation or to enforce

the code. So it's fair to assume the prime minister isn't in a hurry to investigate himself. Also, you might know that British MPs can't use each

other of lying in the House of Commons either.

Labor MP Dawn Butler was briefly kicked out of the House of Commons for saying that the prime minister lead to the House and the country over and

over again. So it's said it's easier to punish machine who calls a MP a liar than an MP who might have lied, because that is harder to prove.

We'll be right back after this.


NOBILO: Right now, Australia is dealing with its worst COVID-19 outbreak, and on Tuesday, it reported its deadliest day of the pandemic.

The omicron variant is pushing hospitalizations to record levels and health officials say many of those permanently in intensive care are young and

unvaccinated. They're urging everyone to get their booster shot. Some positive news, daily infections in Australia have eased slightly.

Now, a year ago, Israel was the fastest country to roll out COVID vaccines, but despite that, most of the country's young children remain unvaccinated

and now hospitals are seeing a surge in new cases.

CNN's Hadas Gold spoke to a doctor about this trend.


HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For months, this children's COVID ward at Sheba Hospital in central Israel sat empty. Now it's re-

opened and nurses are suiting up again.

As health experts estimate that COVID cases in children will soon surge to tens of thousands per day.


Dr. Itai Pesach, director of the staff for children's hospital at Sheba, says that during the last wave, they at their peak 15 children in the COVID


DR. ITAI PESACH, DIRECTOR, SAFRA CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL AT SHEBA: We broke that number during this week, and I'm sure it's going to be higher because

the rate of positive people and positive children around the country is still rising.

GOLD: But something is different about this wave. Most of the kids in the COVID ward weren't admitted because of COVID.

PESACH: We found them to be positive while we were treating them for other illnesses. So COVID actually complicates a little bit conditions we have to

care for them, but otherwise poses no significant medical risk for them.

GOLD: Dr. Pesach is especially worried about the long-term ramifications of so many positive cases. Children with even asymptomatic COVID infections

sometimes develop a debilitating disorder called PIMS, pediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome.

PESACH: If omicron does cause PIMS, the vast -- the huge number of positive cases that we see would definitely bring a wave of PIMS later and

PIMS is a significant disorder. We know that the vaccine protects from PIMS in very good -- in a very good way. So going back to the vaccine, if most

of the kids were vaccinated, we wouldn't have to worry about what's going to happen in a month now.

GOLD: But less than 15 percent of Israeli children aged 5 to 11 are vaccinated. As health officials try to get more life-saving shots into

arms, the education system is soldiering on.

DALIT STAUBER, DIRECTOR GENERAL, ISRAELI EDUCATION MINISTRY: Here in Israel we are absolutely sure that open schools are the best option, even

under most difficult circumstances. And our policy is very clear -- to keep schools open under any circumstances.

GOLD: At Gretz Elementary School in Tel Aviv, open windows for ventilation, masks, and a new kind of homework.

Because of an intense demand for testing, whether at home or performed by professionals, the Israeli government decided to give each student three

free at home antigen tests.

The school's COVID coordinator Mirit Haviv can barely keep up with her students' positive tests in quarantine.

MIRIT HAVIV, COVID-19 COORDINATOR, GRETZ ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: It's crazy. It's like a wave. It's like a tsunami. It's not even just a regular wave,

it's a real tsunami that just flushes everything. That's it.

GOLD: But she agrees schools must stay open despite the risks.

HAVIV: I think it will be easier to shut down schools, yes, but it's a problem. I'm a mother. I have two boys and I know how hard it is for them

the stay at home. I think it's more important the kids stay in a regular routine, come back to school every day, see their friends. I think it's

much more important.

GOLD: So, children in Israel continue on. Testing and hoping that they can make it through the tsunami.

Hadas Gold, CNN, Tel Aviv.


NOBILO: You're watching THE GLOBAL BRIEF. We'll be right back after this.


NOBILO: Microsoft has just made the biggest gaming play in history. Today, the tech giant announced it will pay nearly $70 billion cash to buy

Activision-Blizzard. That's the company behind some of the biggest game franchises in the world, including Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and

Candy Crush.


It's a big price tag for a bigger piece of a massive industry.

Analysts say that global gaming revenue grew to $251 billion last year. But Microsoft will be buying a company that's been rocked by scandal just in

the past year. Activision-Blizzard has been facing a lawsuit and federal investigations of accusations of sexual harassment, abuse, and

discrimination against female workers. Employees have staged walkouts and many are demanding the CEO resign.

Under the new deal with Microsoft, he's planning to stay. Even with some high profile resignations and Activision's hopes to settle the lawsuit, the

dust hasn't settled just yet.

CNN's chief media correspondent Brian Stelter joins me now from New York.

Hi, Brian. Always good to see you.

This lawsuit against Activision-Blizzard has raised a lot of questions about the treatment of women in the games industry. So how do you think

Microsoft is going deal with the legacy of that controversy?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, it's important there's been a spotlight on this issue. Discrimination, harassment, sexual

misconduct has run rampant inside some of these companies and there's damning amount of evidence against Activision-Blizzard and in some cases

against the CEO, Bobby Kotick. This is giving Activision a way out by selling to Microsoft.

And Microsoft made a lot of -- they said all the right things today when it comes to cleaning up the culture at Activision and making it a better place

to work. Whether Microsoft can do that remains to be seen. First, it has to close this deal, get the approval from regulators. But it's a big move for

Microsoft from a gaming point of view and also a significant statement about the video game industry as a whole. How valuable it is, but also how

it needs to clean up its act.

NOBILO: And, Brian, what do you think that Microsoft and gamers stand to gain from this move?

STELTER: Well, certainly, what we're seeing is the incredible valuation from the video game industry, a space that might be thought of as something

you do in your free time, for fun on your phone or with a console. This is a $70 billion deal. It shows you the power and the value of gaming.

Microsoft wants to bulk up with more games, more "Call of Duty" type franchises to make its game pass for valuable. So, that's big strategy for

Microsoft. They're also talking a lot about the metaverse, the idea we're going live both in the real world and virtual world at the same time.

Count me as skeptical, but this is a step by Microsoft to be very much invested in whatever that future is, and now we'll see if regulators in the

U.S., U.K. and elsewhere go along with the deal.

NOBILO: Thanks, Brian. I also like that both you bond over not wanting to really participate in the metaverse. So, it's always good to see you.

STELTER: At least for now. Me too.

NOBILO: In kind of real life. Yeah, thanks so much.

And breaking news coming into CNN -- the U.S. House Select Committee investigating last year's January 6th attack on the U.S. capitol issued a

subpoena for Rudy Giuliani, former attorney to ex-President Donald Trump. The committee also issued subpoenas for two other attorneys who pushed the

voter fraud conspiracy theories on Trump's behalf.

Thanks for watching. We'll see you again with more news tomorrow.