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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

U.S. Hopes Russia Will "Come Back to the Table"; Coups in West Africa; Holocaust Memorial Day. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired January 27, 2022 - 17:00   ET



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

Tonight, quote, Russia is not only attacking Ukraine. That, the message from Ukraine, as it calls for Europe to stay united. I speak with the

Polish deputy foreign minister.

Then, we look at Russia's influence in Western Africa, as coups in several countries create a leadership vacuum in the region.

And resisting new enemies of democracy -- a powerful message from a Holocaust survivor to the E.U. on Holocaust Memorial Day.

The United States says it's hopeful that Russia will come back to the negotiating table after reviewing its written response to Moscow's security

demands. But the Kremlin is making clear it sees few reasons for optimism. It says Vladimir Putin, who visited a war memorial in St. Petersburg

Thursday, is still analyzing both the U.S. and NATO's responses.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says those responses do not address Russia's fundamental concerns, although they could lead to dialogue on, quote,

secondary issues.


SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: There is no positive reaction on the main issue in this document. The main issue is our clear position on

the inadmissibility of further expansion of NATO to the East and the strike weapons that could threaten the territory of the Russian Federation.


NOBILO: The Pentagon says Russia's military buildup near Ukraine has increase in the past 24 hours. But today, Russia said the idea of war with

Ukraine is, quote, unacceptable, repeating that it has no plans to attack.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky discussed the crisis by phone a few hours ago. Mr. Zelensky says that they

talk about joint actions meant to de-escalate tensions. A senior Ukrainian official tells CNN the call did not go well, that the leaders disagreed

over the risk level of an attack.

All 30 NATO members spoke with one voice when they sent a unified response to Russia's demands, yet there's increasing concern about the role of

Germany work critics saying it's approach to Russian aggression is too soft. There's even debate within Germany itself on how it should respond.

One conservative lawmaker warns that if Mr. Putin believes Germany is not committed to a strong NATO response, quote, we will have succeed in the

dividing the alliance and paralyzing Europe, but Germany's defense minister today defended the decision not to join some NATO allies in arming Ukraine.


CHRISTINE LAMBRECHT, GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTER (trough translator): The German government has very clearly agreed that we will not send any lethal

weapons or arms deliveries to any conflict areas because we do not want to fuel these conflicts further. I believe that this is the right approach in

this case.


NOBILO: Ukraine's foreign minister says he believes Russia will pursue diplomacy for at least two more weeks. That's when talks aimed at a cease-

fire in eastern Ukraine are set to resume in Berlin. Dmytro Kuleba says that what happens in Ukraine should concern the entire western world.


DMYTRO KULEBA, UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: I firmly believe that it's important for Western countries to succeed in this particular crisis for

the reasons that I mentioned because in recent years, Russia has been attacking not only Ukraine. The fight in Ukraine is not about Ukraine. It's

really about the ability of the European Union, of the West in a broader sense to defend its principles and defend itself from those who put a

challenge -- who challenge the way of life that the Europeans support.


NOBILO: Poland is part of NATO's eastern flank, meaning it too is watching Russia's actions carefully. Before the show, I spoke with Poland's deputy

foreign minister and asks whether he thinks other countries sleepwalked into this crisis.


MARCIN PRZYDACZ, POLISH DEPUTY MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Well, you know, we've been urging the Western countries as allies, as members of the same

community to somehow stop this pressure from Russian side, which we have been somehow experiencing for the last couple of years, not only us, but

also other countries in the region, especially the Ukraine, but also Georgia, other countries were attacked basically by Russia. So we ask the

Western democracies, we should respond somehow to that.

That's why we were criticizing so much kind of business as usual approach. There were some countries in the Western democracies trying to establish

good contact with Russia, forgetting somehow about those, basically, atrocities which were done by Russia.

Our position was different. We do remember their history. We don't want to be again any kind of part of the sphere of influence.

NOBILO: What do you know about Russia's military presence currently in Belarus and how much does that concern you with Poland's geography?


PRZYDACZ: Well, first of all, we need to note that there is a war in Ukraine already since 2014 when the Russian troops started their occupation

of Crimea -- Crimean peninsula, which is part of Ukraine. There are troops in Donbas, not only their regional troops, security force, but also Russian


There are more than 100,000 troops around the eastern part of Ukraine. And now, of course, Russia also deployed several dozens of -- thousands of

troops in Belarus in order to exercise. But as we know, Mr. Lukashenko, authoritarian regime of Belarus, is very much dependent on Moscow. So it is

a part of their -- basically, the military, the sphere of influence of Russia.

So, of course, we are very much worried, in Poland, we are much worried with our regional partners, I mean, Baltic States and other (INAUDIBLE)

countries as well, since Russia is using the military threats as the instrument of their foreign policy.

Well, we know it only from the history. In 19th century, there's World War Second, maybe the Cold War. Right now, the Western democracies, we're

building our position -- rather on our economy position than the military threats. Russia somehow is back to the 19th century, with these -- with

these military instruments.

NOBILO: Are you disappointed by Germany's lesser commitment to reinforcing NATO defenses in the East?

PRZYDACZ: Well, our position -- I mean, the Polish, Baltic, or other Central European countries has been always different than the German, one.

Although we have been emphasizing and underlining that projects like Nord Stream 2, deepening the dependency on Russian gas, make also Germany more

vulnerable to the Russian position, Russian political decision. There were -- I mean, Berlin was quite committed to finish up this project.

Now we can see Russia also is playing its game also with energy sources also with the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2.

So if you ask me, of course, we are always quite disappointed when someone is trying to establish kind of contact to -- without participation of our

countries with Russia. But coming back to the history, there were some already deals made by Berlin and Moscow and for the entire region, that it

was not good part of the history.

So, having it in mind, all the direct contacts between Berlin and Moscow are somehow treated down here in the region as a possible threat also to

our countries.

NOBILO: What do you think Russia's geopolitical end game is, and what is Poland's key priority when navigating the current crisis?

PRZYDACZ: Well, you know, Mr. President Vladimir Putin once said that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the biggest geopolitical tragedy of the

20th century. That's what he said. So I think that we can understand that he is trying very much to reveal somehow that Soviet Empire -- maybe not

Soviet Empire, but empire with capital in Moscow.

Russia has not that much to offer to the countries in their vicinity, nothing basically to offer in terms of economy, culture, or et cetera, et

cetera, rather threats and maybe energy, blackmail (ph). That's why they are using this instrument. So that's why they're attacking right now in

Ukraine, in order to establish those kind of empire of Russia.

And we cannot allow them to happen that, because it's a threat to all the countries in the region, but it's a threat also to Western democracies

since we don't want to go -- come back to the Cold War. Rather, we're concentrating on the good economy ties and building and prosperous times

for our societies.


NOBILO: My next guest says Vladimir Putin's actions so far have bolstered NATO, not weakened it.

Ian Bremmer is president of the Eurasia Group and he's joining us now live from New York.

Great to have you on the program, sir. Thanks for joining us.



NOBILO: So, your view is that the current circumstances are bolstering NATO, which, of course, I understand because it's given the country a

threat to unify around. However, we are seeing some potential cracks and divisions in NATO.

Do you think that's just fleeting? Do you think it's not going to be the beginning of a deeper division?

BREMMER: Well, let's put it this way -- I think Putin timed this escalation because he believed NATO was getting a lot weaker and didn't expect this

kind of response. Let's face it -- Angela Merkel, who drove the European response to the Russian intervention invasion back in 2014 in Ukraine is no

longer there.

You've got a new chancellor with a much more divided government, a French president really angry on the response to Aukus, the defense pact. He has

his own presidential election coming up. He's focused on European strategic autonomy, and you've got Biden on the back of Afghanistan debacle and

focusing more on Asia, you know, China. Putin thinks he's a little bit -- like he's older, maybe he's going to be weak.

So, I mean, for all of these reasons, I think Putin really expected that you were not going to get the kind of coordinated tough response that you

presently getting. I mean, the Americans working with the Germans, the German chancellor coming to the U.S. on, I guess, February 7th to meet with

Biden, and the announcement that the Russians take one step into Ukraine and Nord Stream is done, I'm fairly confident the people that were advising

Putin before he decided on all of this said that would not happen.

NOBILO: And why do you think that is? Because Putin can be a shrewd political gambler. So if he has got it wrong, what kind of intelligence do

you think they're informing him of?

BREMMER: No, I'm just saying it's not easy for the Americans to get everyone together. The fact is everyone's been thinking about the fact that

there's more fragmentation. I mean, the Brits have this shambolic Brexit process. The Americans are incredibly politically divided.

But interestingly, on the Russia-Ukraine story, I mean, unlike any foreign policy crisis I can think of since the collapse of the Soviet Union -- you

talk about Iran, China, Afghanistan, Iraq, you name it -- is an enormous consensus in the United States.

I know the Democrats and Republicans hate each other, but they agree on what to do about Russia and Ukraine. They all agree you should be sending

more weapons to Ukraine. We all agree, push hard on diplomacy, but make sure the Russians know they're going to pay a hell if it turns out they

decided they invade or intervene. And further, get the Europeans as much involved and onboard as possible.

I think that that's actually going to be surprising to people.

NOBILO: Ian, I'm just going to bring in our correspondent Matthew Chance who's in Ukraine, I believe. Please stay on so we can have you involved in

the conversation.


NOBILO: Matthew, I understand you have new reporting on the conversation that occurred between Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelensky.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I'm just reading it right now. You know, basically, they have had this telephone

conversation, and, you know, I think if there was a hope on the Ukrainian side that they were going to get more from the United States, they've come

sort of face-to-face with the geopolitical reality of the situation, which is that according to this official who briefed me on this, there would be,

you know, no more military help from the United States in terms of U.S. troops, which we already knew of course. There would be no sophisticated

weapons delivered to Ukraine. And there would be no progress on NATO.

And, you know, the American president -- there was a disagreement between the Ukrainian and the U.S. president on sort of the urgency of the threat.

The American side, U.S. side saying they thought the threat was imminent. The Ukrainian side saying that, you know, they felt that the intelligence

from their assessment was a bit more ambiguous than that.

And so, yeah, I mean, look, this call kind of, again, exposes the kind of frustrations that we've seen bubble out to the surface other the past

couple of weeks as tensions have been rising. On the face of it, for the most part, the relationship between the U.S. and Ukraine is a strong one.

Diplomatically they're on the same page, but behind the scenes, there's all sorts of frustrations that tend to bubble up in these situations.

NOBILO: Matthew Chance in Kyiv, thank you.

Ian Bremmer, back to you. What's your reaction to that? Might seem odd that Ukraine with its proximity to Russia, with over 100,000 troops on it border

is taking a slightly less alarmist approach to the current intelligence than the U.S.

BREMMER: Well, I understand why they're saying that because if you believe -- if you are the Ukrainian president, you accept that war is imminent,

you've got a lot less leverage, right? So, it basically means you have to accept everything the Americans are telling you.


And they don't like the message the Americans have been giving them, which is that, you know, you're not getting in NATO, and you're not getting a

membership action plan for NATO, and, by the way, even if Russia was in favor of it, you don't have to votes among the NATO membership. It's not

just Biden administration saying that.

So they're frustrated. The relationship between Zelensky and the American leadership, frankly, most of the European leadership is not all that great.

But I will say that the read we've gotten from the Ukrainian foreign minister over the past hours has been that the Americans read Ukraine into

that letter that was sent to the Kremlin before it was sent, and they were fine with it. They were okay with it.

I mean, honestly, that's about as good as you're going to get from the Ukrainians given the amount of pressure they are, in reality, under.

NOBILO: Now, I don't want to be a really annoying journalist, but everyone asks this question about what Putin's thinking. However, I do think you

would be better placed than most the answer the question. Do you think that Putin actually has a clear end game in the short medium term in terms of

whether or not he is planning an incursion invasion or he isn't? Or do you think he's just trying to keep options open and quite nimble as he sees

what might be best for his legacy?

BREMMER: Well, I mean, that was a less annoying way to ask that question than you might have, to be fair. Look, I think that Putin -- anyone you

talk to that's close to Putin say Putin hasn't made that decision. That's kind of a copout.

I mean, the fact is Putin has a range of escalatory options in front of him. It's not a choice of full invasion or slink back to the Kremlin with

your tail between your legs. There are many things he can do. He's already done some of them.

He's already escalated military forces dramatically, and that's going to continue with the exercises coming in Belarus in the coming week.

Furthermore, he's already engage in the cyberattacks against Ukraine. So, he's taken some of those measures. He can do more.

I think what Putin is basically doing is every step of this process. He's seeing what his optionality looks like. He didn't like the status quo ante,

didn't like -- doesn't like the Ukrainian president. He doesn't like more NATO engagement with Ukraine. He doesn't like the democratic movements in

Belarus and the sudden explosion in Kazakhstan.

But he now sees that he has an opportunity to shake things up and change the status quo in his favor, and that's what he's been doing. I expect he's

still going to have another bite or two at the apple and he's going to see what his position looks like. But I don't think that his -- that the

expectation here in the Kremlin is he's really thinking about full invasion into Ukraine, up to the river, taking out the Ukrainian president and he's

occupying and in charge of a new government.

I think the consequences of Russia doing that both internationally and at home would be severe. I do recognize that the U.S. intelligence community

believes that is what the Russians are going to do, and I think that the White House has heard that message from them loud and clear. I'm not

convinced by it. I'm quite skeptical.

NOBILO: Ian Bremmer in New York, thank you so much for the most definitive answer to that question I have had to date. Congratulations.

BREMMER: My pleasure.

NOBILO: Now, North Korea says it's tested two types of missiles this week. A conventional surface-to-surface tactical guidance missile on Thursday,

and an update to its long-range cruise missile system on Tuesday. The country has conducted six missile tests this month alone. South Korea says

the constant launches are threatening peace and stability in the peninsula.

Let's take a look at the other key stories making international impact today. The U.N. says that more than 15,000 people have been displaced in

Sudan's western Darfur region this week. Humanitarian groups reporting an uptick in a tribal violence near one city, near the border with Chad,

including one recent attack on a local market that killed nine people.

For the first time since November, the U.S. has flown American out of Afghanistan. The U.S. military charted a Qatari Airways flight for the

evacuation. There are said to be a few dozen Americans in Afghanistan who want to leave.

A rare site in Jerusalem as snow blanketed the city on Wednesday and Thursday. Schools were shut down, and more than 250 snowplows were deployed

to clear the roads. Jerusalem got 20 centimeter of snow, but with rain in the forecast, it will likely soon be gone.

After the break, as hundreds welcome the new coup leaders in Burkina Faso, we'll explore why West Africa has seen several takeovers in the last two




NOBILO: Leaders of the economic community of West African states are holding an emergency meeting on Friday, discussing how to respond to this

week's military coup in Burkina Faso. Many worry about the deterioration of the security situation in the region, which has seen several military

takeovers in the last two years. While the international community condemned the uprising, hundreds of people celebrated the ouster of the

government in scenes similar to this in the aftermath of Mali's coup in 2020.

There are many issues that are fueling these coups. Throughout the region, government struggled to come up with effective ways to reduce poverty and

fight Islamist militant groups.

Joining me now for a clearer picture of the political situation in West Africa is CNN correspondent Larry Madowo.

Larry, fantastic to have you on the program. Welcome to TEH BRIEF.

What common factors are at play when we're looking at these recent coups in the region?

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bianca, it's great to finally be on the program with you.

Listen, the recent coups in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Chad, are all in West Africa, from the French colonies that are part of this region that

used to be called the Coup Bloc of Africa. They also have weak domestic political environments, which means that the military leaders feel they can

act with impunity with little to no consequences, and also another major problem in the entire Sahil region is they're all fighting a major Islamist

insurgency, one of the fastest and most ferocious in the world.

And if I include Sudan, we are talking five coups in the last 18 months. In the last nine months alone, three coups in Africa. This is the fastest and

most frequent number of coups in almost 40 years in Africa, and that raises the question about the rate of democratic backsliding on the African


Democracy is fragile everywhere. I know this having covered the U.S. election and U.S. political system, but especially right now in Africa, a

lot of questions about whether democracy can stand on the continent or there's a lot of autocrats who are springing up.

NOBILO: And precisely because of that, you know, West African nations, sometimes being unable to effectively respond, it leaves a vacuum, as you

mentioned, and countries like Russia are moving into it in some cases. So, what impact is that having?

MADOWO: That is another major strand here. For instance, after the coup in Burkina Faso, there were reports of people on the streets, Bianca, who were

celebrating and asking for Russian involvement to try and deal with Islamists insurgency there because they have seen similar tactics being

used in Mali.

Mali has turned away from France embraced Russian mercenaries there. Russia also, for instance, a big booster of military rulers in Sudan. Russia, for

instance, vetoed a draft resolution trying to condemn a military takeover in Sudan.

So, in societies in Africa, where they're turning away from the West, Russia appears to be moving in with defense contractors, with mercenaries.

And you see Russia taking advantage of the anti-France sentiment all across West Africa, and that is another question where France has a lot of

problems in Africa, Francafrique and whatnot.


But in terms of democratic credentials, obviously, it does not compare with Russia, and yet, that's the situation that's already playing out in Central

African Republic, and to a lesser degree to Mozambique and could be expanding in other parts of the continent.

NOBILO: Larry Madowo, thank you so much.

You're watching THE GLOBAL BRIEF. We'll be right back.


NOBILO: From Germany to Israel, communities around the world have come together to remember the millions of people murdered in the Holocaust.

January the 27th marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp 77 years ago. Many of those who survived the horrors of

concentration camps have shared their powerful stories, stories of fear, violence, resilience, and hope. All with one key message -- that it must

never happen again.

In a statement at the European parliament, Holocaust survivor Margot Friedlander criticized the light use of some of the Holocaust's darkest

elements as a way to protest against COVID-19 restrictions.


MARGOT FRIEDLANDER, HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR (through translator): It is with disbelief now as a 100-year-old, I had the see how symbols of our exclusion

by the Nazis, the so-called Jewish star, the Star of David, are shamelessly being used today by the new enemies of democracy on the streets to style

themselves in the midst of a democracy as victims. On a day like today, we must stand together, so the memory of the Holocaust remains alive and is

not abused by anyone.


NOBILO: Most survivors of Nazi concentration camps, like my wonderful grandfather, have died, so Holocaust Memorial Day has been emphasizing,

listening to and preserving their precious testimonies. It's also an opportunity to consider the effect that hatred and prejudice can have on a

community, to shine a light on the millions of people around the world, facing persecution, and to remind us that raising our voice can help others

and make a difference.

As Anne Frank wrote in her diary, how wonderful is it that nobody needs to wait a single moment before starting to improve the world?

Thank you for watching THE GLOBAL BRIEF tonight. We'll see you again tomorrow.