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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Putin Speaks About Ukraine; Whoopi Goldberg Apologies; 1 Year On: Myanmar Coup. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired February 01, 2022 - 17:00   ET



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

Tonight, the British prime minister says Russia's president is holding a gun to intimidate Europe, but Putin says NATO deceived him.

Then, TV host Whoopi Goldberg apologizes for comments about the Holocaust. We look at the wider issue of anti-Semitism.

And opponents of Myanmar's military rule held silent strikes today and one year on from the country's coup.

On the one hand, President Vladimir Putin says he hope a solution can be found to solve the crisis in Ukraine, but on the other, he's only digging

in on red lines he knows the West will never accept. Mr. Putin publicly addressed the U.S. and NATO responses to Russia's security demands for the

first time Tuesday. He said they ignored Moscow's fundamental concerns, which include NATO expansion.

Standing next to the prime minster of Hungary, a NATO member, President Putin gave a hypothetical scenario of what would happen if Ukraine joined

NATO and then tried to retake Russian-annexed Crimea by force.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: This is a sovereign Russian territory. In this sense, this question (ph) is close for us -- let's think that

Ukraine joins NATO and then it starts war against Russia. And so, we have to wage a war against NATO.


NOBILO: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the West is united on Ukraine's inalienable right to choose its own alliances. After meeting with

the Ukrainian president in Kyiv, Mr. Johnson accused Russia of threatening Ukraine, to try to strong arm all of Europe.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: This is about something even bigger, I'm afraid. It's about the whole European security architecture,

because in no doubt about what I think President Putin is trying to achieve here. I think that he is trying, by holding a gun, as it were, to the head

of Ukraine, by intimidating Ukraine, to get us to change the way we look at something that was absolutely fantastic.


NOBILO: The U.S. secretary of state and Russian foreign minister spoke by phone Tuesday and agreed to meet again after Russia formally responds to

the U.S. and NATO's documents. A State Department spokesperson was asked today a question many of our viewers have as well -- after so many rounds

of talks and talks about future talks, has anything really changed?


REPORTER: Can you point to any one thing that shows -- that suggests Russia is open to real dialogue? Anything, anything practical that suggests

they really want to change their action?

NED PRICE, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: That's not incumbent on us. That's incumbent on Moscow.

REPORTER: So you've seen nothing.

PRICE: Well, it is -- it is true, as you heard from us. We have not seen concrete, tangible sign of de-escalation. That is what we have continued to

convey that we need to see if this dialogue, if this diplomacy is going to bear fruit.


NOBILO: Our international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is following all of these developments from Moscow. Nic, what struck you as most significant

in terms of what President Putin said today, and where does that leave things in terms of trying to find a resolution?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: You know, it's really interesting, after all those tough things that he said, that his needs

weren't met, that NATO had essentially deceived Russia, that, you know, he owns Crimea, by the way, and it's Russian, so that's the end of that story.

But if Ukraine becomes a member of NATO and attacks, to take it back, then Russia will be at war with NATO. So these were really, really strong and

tough lines. Yet at the end of that press conference, he left it as well -- and I'm in conversations with President Macron of France, and I really do

hope that we'll get to meet each other fairly soon, face to face.

He's had a couple of phone calls with the French president over the past few -- four days and has indicated last night, after that phone call, that

they hope they'll have a face-to-face meeting. He's clearly intimating there he wants to keep open a track of diplomacy. Perhaps he feels that

President Macron, that's a door he can push on that will open for him.

But what he is doing right now is the tactics of President Putin has used before -- which is the strong arm tactics, which is turn up to, you know, a

diplomatic conversation, but with an army. Say you won't use it, but it's right behind you. The Pentagon believes that it's seeing an even greater

military presence build up. The readiness and capacity is there, they believe.

So, this is -- this is President Putin looking for, at the moment, a way forward.


He hasn't made his mind up. He hasn't declared which track he's going down here, but he does appear to sort of want to keep pushing this forward to

see what sort of concessions may shake loose. And it was interesting that Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister met with him in Moscow today,

actually said that he thought he had an understanding with President Putin that there was a mutually satisfiable diplomatic path that was still open,

but it just seems that President Putin is going to push and push and push much harder for a longer period of time.

He's not about ready to get into the talks, but he hasn't quite decided, it seems, which way to go.

NOBILO: Nic Robertson in Moscow, thank you.

While most of the discussion about nations pledging to help Ukraine has focused on military power such as the U.S., U.K., and France, several of

Ukraine's neighbors who are geographically vulnerable, too, are also giving strong support.

Poland's prime minster was also in Kyiv Monday for meetings with his Ukrainian counterpart. He's pledging to supply Ukraine with air defense

systems, artillery, and other military and economic aid. He says living close to Russia is like living at the foot of a volcano.

Romania is also among Ukraine's most vocal supporters. It's talking to the U.S. and France about increasing the number of NATO troops there.

A short time ago, I spoke with Romania's foreign minister, Bogdan Aurescu, and asked him what part Romania is playing in this current diplomatic



BOGDAN AURESCU, ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: The support for the Euro Atlantic values is very high in Romania, so that's why we have asked for

the consolidation of the NATO presence in Romania, for the consolidation of U.S. troops in Romania. And we are very glad that not only United States

but also France has decided to deploy more troops in Romania.

Actually, I would like to share with you the fact that on the 3rd of February, I will host in Bucharest, a meeting of the foreign ministers of

the Bucharest nine format, which is the format gathering all nine allies on the Eastern Flank, together with the French minister of foreign affairs,

visiting Bucharest on the same day, in order to discuss about the security situation in our neighborhood, and the Black Sea region, and the foreign

minister of Ukraine will also join us during that meeting.

So, we will be able to discuss ways and means how to -- well, continue to promote dialogue and to reach de-escalation in the region.

NOBILO: And one of President Putin's demands in order to divert a further diplomatic or potentially military crisis was the withdrawal of NATO troops

from Bulgaria and Romania. Is there any flexibility on that from your perspective?

AURESCU: Of course not, and as you well know, the NATO reply on the proposals advanced by Russia in December and also the U.S. written reply to

those proposals were quite clear in that respect. Any kind of demand for withdrawing the NATO troops and equipment deployed already on the territory

of the Eastern allies is something which is very much linked with the Article Five commitment of the NATO allies.

So being very much connected with the court, with the essence of the NATO mission, which is collective defense. It is unacceptable to have any kind

of third party veto on this issue.

NOBILO: I'm sure, Foreign Minister, you are following the words of Vladimir Putin very closely. So I'd be interested to get your response to

his remarks today, particularly that he feels the West is simply not taking Russia's security concerns into account.

AURESCU: Yes, I have followed with a lot of attention what he said today during the press conference with President Orban. Among many things, he

said, he again said the missile defense site in Romania, for instance, and in Poland represents a threat to the security of Russia, which is

absolutely not true. It is nonsense to say that purely defensive site, which is not directed against Russia but to possible missile threats from

outside the Euro Atlantic space, represents a threat to Russia.

And as I already mentioned, we are ready to allow Russia to check whether there are any kind of offensive missiles in Romania. There are not. That's

for sure. Then, well, he said that Ukraine will become soon a NATO member, if I understand correctly his remarks.


But this is not on the agenda of the alliance right now. There is no imminent decision to accept Ukraine as a NATO member state.

NOBILO: How concerned are you about the potential vulnerability of Moldova to Russian designs or aggression? Perhaps you could explain for our

international viewers some of the geopolitical vulnerability that your neighbor faces.

AURESCU: Well, Moldova is not a member of NATO. But we have witnessed recently, for instance in October, gas crisis in the republic of Moldova,

and that was clearly prompted by some Russian actions against this country. It was perhaps a very good case study of hybrid action against a country in

the eastern neighborhood. And both Romania and the European Union have acted in order to support Moldova to cope with such kind of -- such kind of



NOBILO: Amnesty international is the latest human rights group to accuse Israel of apartheid in his treatment of Palestinians. It released an almost

300-page report today, detailing what it describes as inhuman or inhumane acts, including torture, unlawful killings and denial of basic rights. The

report says, quote, the state of Israel considers and treats Palestinians as an inferior non-Jewish racial group.

Israel's foreign ministry calls the report false and biased and anti- Semitic and says the human rights group is using double standards to delegitimize Israel.

London's Metropolitan Police are being urged to publicly commit to being an anti-racist organization after a police dog investigations condemned

officers for a range of offenses, including racism, bullying and misogyny. The probe has centered largely on Charing Cross police station which led to

an officer being fired and others being disciplined. It found that officers exchanged highly offensive messages that they claimed were just banter.

The report, which found details of group at chats referencing rape, Auschwitz, and homophobic language has been reviewed by investigators. They

said colleagues were afraid to speak out for fear of being ostracized.

Met Police has apologized saying the officers' conduct did not represent the values of the force.

Meantime, in the United States, at least 13 historically black colleges and universities received bomb threats on Tuesday. The campuses went into

lockdown, and students were told to shelter in place. No bombs were discovered. Similar bomb threats were called into several black colleges on

Monday as well. Today, February 1st, is the start of black history month in the United States.

Television host Whoopi Goldberg is apologizing for declaring that the Holocaust, the systematic persecution and murder of 6 million Jews by the

Nazis was, quote, not about race. This came up during a debate on the American TV show that she co-hosts, "The View", in a discussion about the

removal of a book about death camps of the Holocaust from a school's curriculum.


WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST OF THE VIEW: The Holocaust isn't about race.


GOLDBERG: No. It's not about race --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, they consider Jews a different race.

GOLDBERG: But it's not about race. It's not about race.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is it about?

GOLDBERG: It's about man's inhumanity to man.


NOBILO: Goldberg also said this is white people doing it to white people, so you're going to go and fight amongst yourselves.

The Nazis predicated their ideology on the delusional notion that they were the master Aryan race, trying -- and then they tried to exterminate the

Jews who were considered racially inferior.

Whoopi Goldberg then, in an attempt to apologize, told Stephen Colbert that the Nazis lied and had issues with ethnicity, not with race. Many pointed

out that Goldberg's comments were based in ignorance, including Dani Dayan, who is chairman of Israel's Holocaust Memorial.


DANI DAYAN, YAD VASHEM: Ms. Goldberg display in her word a fundamental lack of understanding, probably self-knowledge about what anti-Semitism in

general and the holocaust in particular. Nazi Germany, Hitler persecuted -- annihilated the Jews because they saw us as an inferior, dangerous race.


NOBILO: Goldberg's remarks come amidst escalating incidents of anti- Semitism, and attacks against Jews, and frequent extremist comparisons between Nazi Germany and COVID vaccines or restrictions. The Anti-

Defamation League released a groundbreaking study in 2014 that more than 1 billion people worldwide hold anti-Semitic Jews.

And here in the U.K., the Community Service Trust, a charity protecting Jews from anti-Semitism, recorded more than 1,000 anti-Semitic incidents in

just the first half of 2021.


Let's take a look at other key stories making international impact today.

Gunfire was heard near a government compound in Guinea-Bissau a short while ago. The economic community of West African states says that this was a

coup attempt and is blaming the military. But the country's president now says the coup fails and the government remains in control.

Peru has suspended the Spanish oil firm Repsol from loading and unloading in the Peruvian sea, until the company offers guarantees avoiding another

spill. Environmental officials estimate that almost 12,000 barrels of crude oil were spilled near Peru's main seaport last month. Officials also say

Repsol have not given clear cleaning and relief directives after the disaster.

NASA says it plans to crash the International Space Station into the Pacific Ocean in 2031. Space agency unveiled its plan for disposing of the

rapidly aging space station on Tuesday. NASA says it will fire thruster on the way down to ensure the ISS doesn't hit dry land.

And coming up, we look at the anniversary of Myanmar's military coup that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi and plunged the country into murderous chaos.

I'll be joined by the U.N.'s special rapporteur to Myanmar.


NOBILO: One year on from the coup in Myanmar, and many of the streets that once were packed with protesters are empty. Opponents of the country's

military rule held silent strikes today to mark the anniversary of the day that Aung San Suu Kyi's government was overthrown.

On February 1st, 2021, the junta detained democratically elected officials, including the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and took over the government. That

set off massive protests that have continued for months.




NOBILO: The coup created a deadly backlash in the days and weeks that followed, as well as outrage and sanctions from the international


One year later, some 1,500 civilians have been killed, many while being tortured and more than 11,000 others have been unlawfully held according to

the United Nations.

Dr. Sasa, a special envoy to the U.N., told CNN the global support here is vital.


DR. SASA, MYANMAR'S SPECIAL ENVOY TO THE U.N.: We are asking international community to put maximum pressure on the military junta so that we can end

this nightmare as soon as possible so that needless (ph) life will not lost anymore, so that we can end this coup to an end.


NOBILO: Joining me now via Skype is Tom Andrews, the U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.


Welcome to the program, Tom. It's great to have you with us.


NOBILO: You've said that the military in Myanmar are committing crime against humanity and functioning as a criminal enterprise. So, how would

you describe the situation happening inside Myanmar right now?

ANDREWS: Well, it is dire and it is getting worse. Half the population of Myanmar have fallen into poverty. Hundreds of thousands have been forced

from their homes. There's a humanitarian crisis.

And instead of trying to help, the Myanmar military are actually using humanitarian aid as a weapon of war, stopping convoys of medicine, food,

blankets, whenever they suspect it may be connect in the some way to anyone who is opposed to the military, and, of course, opposition to the military

and wide, broad, and deep.

So it's a catastrophe and unfortunately, the trajectory of this catastrophe is going -- is going down.

NOBILO: Myanmar's special representative to the U.N. has called for maximum pressure from the international community to end the coup, and the

U.S., U.K., and Canada have announced new sanctions on Myanmar and are joining calls to end arm sales there as well.

Are these efforts helping? Are they enough? What more is needed?

ANDREWS: Well, they're helping, but frankly they're not enough. I think we have to, as an international community, pause during this one-year

anniversary and take a hard look at the role that we have played in this catastrophe that's unfolding before our very eyes in Myanmar.

I what has to happen is that the international community, the U.N. in particular, needs to step up and act much more decisively to defend the

people of Myanmar who are under siege. Specifically, I think the U.N. Security Council should meet in an emergency session immediately.

I think a resolution that includes a international arms boycott should be put before the council for a debate and vote. I think sanctions,

coordinated sanctions, tough sanctions should also be put before the body.

Let them debate, let them vote, and let us see exactly where the countries that are members of the Security Council stand. If we can't get the action

we need from the Security Council, those countries who are willing to take action should do so together collectively in a coordinated, focused and

strategic way. None of these things have happened at this point and I think all of these things need to happen.

NOBILO: And, Tom, obviously a whole year passed now since the coup, and millions in Myanmar are unemployed. There are fuel and food prices surging

and obviously the COVID health-care situation is in a state of near collapse.

What are your personal reflections on this anniversary of what has been lost?

ANDREWS: I'm heartbroken, to tell you the truth. I spoke to a man just last week who just days before -- I asked him how he had been touched by

this crisis, and he said, I lost my two daughters, ages 12 and 15, just a few days before. They had been killed in an airstrike. A bomb killed them

in their sleep, his only daughters. He doesn't know what he's going to do.

I mean, I'm a dad, and listening to his anguish, it's just -- it's heartbreaking, Bianca. And the fact is that things are bad and they're

getting worse. I'm frankly not hopeful, but like the people of Myanmar, I'm determined to do everything possible to try to stop this crisis.

But the international community really, really needs to step up.

NOBILO: That is heartbreaking, Tom. And this fully deserves the international community's attention. Thank you very much for being on the

program and bringing us your insights and experience.

ANDREWS: Thank you.

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



NOBILO: Billions of people are now celebrating the lunar New Year, and for the third year in a row, many have had to cancel travel plans because of

COVID-19. Normally, you'd see parades across China. Instead, skylines lit up to say good-bye to the year of the ox. The year of the tiger officially

started on Tuesday. The festivities will be going on for days, even weeks.

There are plenty of rules and superstitions attached to the holiday, like wearing red, preparing candy boxes and not washing our cutting your hair on

the first day of the New Year. Of course, Hong Kong and mainland China aren't the only areas observing the holiday, even though it's rooted in a

traditional Chinese calendar. Malaysia is also celebrating like here in its capital.

And it's only fitting a holiday based on the moon's cycle should be celebrates in space. Astronauts aboard China's space station hung up red

lanterns to mark the occasion.

By now you most likely heard of Wordle, the word guessing game has taken the internet by storm. Now, the game has a new owner and a hefty price tag.

"The New York Times" has bought Wordle for a price they say was in the low seven figures. Millions of people have been playing the game nearly every

day. The game's creator, Josh Wordle, says the success is overwhelming and for now "The New York Times" will keep one of its most compelling features.


JONATHAN KNIGHT, NEW YORK TIMES GAMES EDITOR: "The Times," it will be free. We're just excited to have the audience be introduced to "The New

York Times," introduce "The New York Times" to this game. There's so much value we're going to get from that, so we're not thinking right now about

limiting the game in any way.


NOBILO: For frequent players out there, don't worry, your progress won't be lost. "The New York Times" says it's working to keep existing players'

wins and streaks once it moves to the newspaper's website.

Thank you all for watching. See you again on THE BRIEF tomorrow.