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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

U.S.-China Tension Over Taiwan; War For Southern Ukraine; Controversial Golf Tournament. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired July 28, 2022 - 17:00   ET



BIANCA NOBILO, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Bianca Nobilo in London. A warm welcome to THE GLOBAL BRIEF.

Chinese President Xi Jinping warns U.S. President Joe Biden not to play with fire over Taiwan in a two-hour phone call.

Then, Ukraine is stepping up its effort to retake its southern cities under Russian control. But evidence suggests that Russia is responding by

undertaking a massive redeployment in the region.

And a controversial golf tournament backed by Saudi Arabian will begin Friday at a golf course owned by former U.S. President Donald Trump.

If you play with fire, you get burned. Those are the words of warning from Chinese President Xi Jinping to U.S. President Joe Biden, as the two

leaders discussed how warm. They held their fifth phone call since Mr. Biden took office, and it lasted more than two hours. They discussed top

topics include Taiwan, and China's designs on the South China Sea.

And it appears certain based on Mr. Xi's warning that a potential visit to Taiwan by U.S. House Speaker Pelosi came up in the conversation. The

possible trip drew a blunt response from a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson. He quoted a defense official as saying if Pelosi make the

visit and promotes Taiwanese independence, the Chinese military will take, quote, strong actions. Pelosi has not confirmed plans for the trip, if she

visits Taiwan. The move won't be unprecedented either, but it will show support for the island as it faces military threats from Japan. Taiwan's

been showing off its military might win this week with exercises involving all branches of the island's military and with growing concerns over

China's intentions towards Taiwan, the drills have taken on a greater significance as you can imagine.

Let's bring in CNN political and national security analyst David Sanger.

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


NOBILO: So what else do we know about what was said in the call? Can you flesh out for our viewers why this trip by Pelosi would be escalatory in

the view of the Chinese?

SANGER: Well, first, we know very little about the call. The Chinese, the briefing on it was marked mostly by that play with fire phrase. The

American briefing on the call wasn't a whole lot better. The call lasted wino two and a half hours and yet the substance has not made its way. He

usually takes a few days for the details of these things to leak out.

On the Pelosi trip, this has been pretty badly handled by all sides. The administration needed to know -- must have known that she was thinking of

going because the Pentagon actually flies the congressional delegation around. President Biden came out the other day and said that the military

did not want her to go, for fear of creating some kind of incident or problem. But he didn't say explicitly what he wanted. Of course there of

the same party, so presumably, he could call her up and ask her not to go. It doesn't appear that he has done so, yet, even if she is of an

independent branch of government.

We don't know whether the Chinese would react in a military way, the way this seemed to suggest, I would doubt that. The last speaker who went, of

course, was Newt Gingrich in 1997. A very different era.

NOBILO: How much stock should we put into China's warnings into any U.S. involvement in Taiwan? And more broadly, just anywhere saying perhaps you

shouldn't read too much into the military threats, but there has been a concern, given that Putin's invasion of Ukraine can embolden states like

China who want to ignore sovereignty and self-determination in favor of their own military objectives? Is that was particularly tense now?

SANGER: That's right. And I think that's the bigger issue, Bianca, than Speaker Pelosi's plans. So, what lessons have the Chinese government

learned from Ukraine?

One of the lessons made will be, don't wait until the United States reinforces Taiwan with the kind of weaponry that the U.S. has given to

Ukraine in recent times. So, while we're thinking of a timetable before 2027, before the Chinese military, could be ready to take Taiwan -- if so



They haven't said they would on that time schedule. There is some fear in the U.S. administration that that timetable might have been moved up. That

the lesson from Ukraine is, act quickly, act decisively, and act before they are reinforced with American weapons.

NOBILO: Do you think that the relationship between Biden and Xi at the moment are on a positive or negative trajectory? Where the areas for

cooperation, developing that relationship?

SANGER: Well, until earlier this year, the great hope had been that the biggest area of cooperation would be climate, that China had its own

reasons for wanting to meet climate goals, and that it would do so in its own national interests. But what's happened is that most of the time

American officials bring up climate issues, the Chinese government says we can't really cooperate on that until we get some concessions from you and

other areas, whether it's the treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities, whether it's Taiwan, or the South China Sea, or whether it's

trade related issues. They seem to be doing a linkage that the United States was hoping they would not. And so that's falling apart.

Another two areas where they could cooperate are Iran and North Korea. But in recent times, while China was very helpful in getting the 2015 Iran deal

episodically helpful on North Korea, there is some sense in the administration that the calculus in Beijing, now, is trying to add to

Washington's headaches, thus the discussions with Iran, with North Korea, and of course with Russia.

NOBILO: David Sanger, that was so much -- so interesting. Thanks for sharing your insights. We'll speak to you again soon.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he expects to talk soon with celebrity about a high profile prisoner swap. But Russia says the foreign

minister has a busy schedule and we'll talk when time permits. The response underscores the frustration in Russia that Moscow is in no rush to get this

deal done. The Biden administration wants to exchange Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, for U.S. women's basketball star and a former marine held in


U.S. officials say that they've made substantial offer weeks ago. But Russia, today, confirmed that no agreement has been reached.

Kylie Atwood has the details for you.


KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the man nicknamed the merchant of death, convicted arms trafficker Viktor

Bout, currently serving a 25-year sentence in the United States.

THOMAS HARRINGTON, OPERATIONS CHIEF, U.S. DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMIN.: When arrested, he oversaw operations capable of delivering enough weapons to

launch rebellions, fuel revolutions and slaughter untold thousands of people. He was an accessory to violence on a scale that is beyond


ATWOOD: And now, according to courses briefed on the matter, the Biden administration has offered to return him as part of a proposed deal for two

Americans the United States says are wrongfully detained in Russia, Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying they offered a deal to Russia, but not confirming the details.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago to facilitate their release. Our governments have

communicated repeatedly and directly on that proposal.

ATWOOD: Though the administration has been loathe to engage in prisoner swaps to free American citizens, concern that countries like Russia could

be incentivized to try and hold more Americans, it's one of the tools that actually work. And now, sources say Joe Biden supports the swap especially

after the last swap between the United States and Russia earlier this year received bipartisan support.

Bout is a former Soviet military officer who's been accused of using front companies to funnel Soviet era weapons into conflict zones like

Afghanistan, Liberia and Sierra Leone, even working with U.S. government contractors in Iraq.

PREET BHARARA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: He's a dangerous person. He's one of the most prolific arms dealers in the world. He was convicted in U.S.

federal court in New York on conspiracy to kill Americans.

ATWOOD: A far cry from Bout's global arm smuggling operation, Griner has pleaded guilty to bringing less than a gram of cannabis into Russia.

BRITTNEY GRINER, WNBA PLAYER: I did not plan or have the intent to bring any cannabis or banned substance to Russia. I do understand what my charges

are against me. And with them being accidentally in my bags, I take responsibility.

ATWOOD: Griner says she had medical cannabis to treat her pain from sports injuries and she accidently took it with her while she was rushing to pack

up from the trip, having recently recovered from COVID.


In a Russian courtroom today, she described her harrowing arrest at the Moscow airport.

GRINER: My rights were never read to me. No one explained any of it to me. I definitely knew I was being detained and I kept asking if I could leave

or what's next? But it was just, wait, wait for results.

ATWOOD: But with Russia's invasion of Ukraine still raging and U.S. sanctions still pressuring Russia's economy, U.S. officials believe the

Kremlin is using Griner as a political pawn. The family of Marc Fogel, who was similarly detained for bringing cannabis into Russia, believes he's

being used as a pawn.

Last month, he was sentenced to 14 years in a Russian penal colony, though the State Department has not declared Fogel to be wrongfully detained.

ANNE FOGEL, SISTER OF AMERICAN DETAINED IN RUSSIA: He made a terrible mistake by taking medical marijuana into Russia. But 14 years in a hard

labor camp is essentially a death sentence for him. He's 61 years old, and he has a very long history of spinal injury.


ATWOOD (on-camera): Now there are questions today about why the Biden ministration is publicly saying that they have put a substantial offer on

the table for the Russians when typically these negotiations are kept very closely held, with very few details being described publicly. National

Security Council's John Kirby said that that decision was not made lightly. He was made in the context of these ongoing efforts to bring home both Paul

Whelan and Brittney Griner.

There is also questions about why Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is afforded a phone call with Foreign Minister Lavrov of Russia. It could be

viewed as a win for the Russians. He said he thinks there is utility and can vane a clear message to the Russians on top priorities for the United


Kylie Atwood, CNN, the State Department.

NOBILO: Ukraine is doubling down on its efforts to take back at southern cities from Russia, putting Russian troops on the defensive. They're

focusing on taking small strategic pockets with use of Russian occupied towns where they can make further gains. Ukrainian forces say they've won

back some territory this week. And there is evidence Russia is responding by reinforcing its presence in Kherson, militarily and politically.

Russian state media says that Moscow has opened interior ministry departments in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions and Russia is launching

missile attacks across Ukraine. Firing more than 20 projectiles around Kyiv, around Thursday, injuring at least 15 people, and that bombarding

cities in northeastern Ukraine like Chernihiv and Kharkiv.

Let's talk about this with CNN military analyst and retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton. He joins me now from Washington.

Welcome to the program, sir.

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Thank you, Bianca. Good to be with you.

NOBILO: As I was just saying, Russia has just hit Kyiv with 20 missiles, I think, for the first time in several months, as Ukraine battles to retake

the south. Do you think this marks a renewed attempt on the capital from Russia?

LEIGHTON: Probably not, Bianca, but one of the things we have to watch out for and keep our eyes open for is the possible move into the territory of

Belarus by some of the missiles, perhaps all of them -- perhaps all of them came from Belarus. The fact that they were launched from launch sites in

that country indicates that there may be further involvement by Belarus on Russia's side against Ukraine. That could free up fresh and sources to work

in the south or to renew other offenses in other parts of the country.

But the fact remains, I believe, that the Russian forces are not prepared to mount to offensives at once against Ukrainian territories. So it's

probably a diversionary tactic that they're going to use in order to confuse and disorient the Ukrainians. But their focus is to defender gains

in the south.

NOBILO: Echoing what we saw earlier in the war, as well, with so many friends at the beginning, trying to divert and split Ukrainian troops. So,

all that being said, what could change the strategic picture in favor of the Ukrainians right now?

LEIGHTON: Well, basically it's weapons, Bianca. The West and in particularly, the NATO nations and the United States have put together a

very large robust package of weapons that continues to flow into Ukraine, some come in faster than others. There's issues with production, supply

lines and that does impact the delivery of major weapon systems.

The key would be to deliver something like the ATACMS system. That system has 190 mile, about 400 kilometer range. That would be something that would

be a game changer for the Ukrainians.


The HIMARS system which they currently have -- weapons that are in that category, that has been very useful for the Ukrainians. It has been a

tactical game-changer in localized areas. But it is not sufficient at present to turn the tide completely in favor of the Ukrainians.

So it will be using the ATACMS systems or something like that. It would also -- it's time to really examine the idea of putting extra-manned

aircrafts, flown by Ukrainian pilots, into Ukrainian airspace. That would, of course, change things quite a bit. That would potentially give the

Ukrainians another advantage that they have currently only two-limited degree.

NOBILO: And to return to what you are saying about Russia potentially launching missiles from Belarus on Kyiv, obviously, throughout the war,

there has been a focus on whether the Belarusian military will can become more involved and supply Russia with more troops. How should we interpret

that? Is Russia facing big issues with recruitment and heavy losses on their side? Is it imperative for them to get more support?

LEIGHTON: I think from a Russian standpoint, it is. We do know that the Russian recruitment efforts have reached somewhat of an impasse within

Russia itself. They are using everything from prisoners alternating senses, modifying sentences that they received through the criminal court system in

order to serve in Ukraine. So, that is something that the Russians are clearly facing manpower shortage.

We also know that Russian casualties have been very high. Exactly how high is unclear, but estimates as high as 75,000 have been floated by fairly

reliable sources. And that, of course, would be a significant rain. That would be approximately half the forces that were in Ukraine and initially

by the Russians, being either killed or wounded in action. Many of those wounded are, of course, not able to go back into combat duty.

The Russians are experiencing manpower shortages. The fact that they are using brothers as a launching site for the missiles against Kyiv and

potentially other things, that indicates that they need all the support that they can get, but materially and in a manpower sense as well.

NOBILO: Colonel Cedric Leighton, it's always great to talk to you. Thank you so much for joining us.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Bianca. Anytime.

NOBILO: And still to come on THE GLOBAL BRIEF, months after Russian troops are forced out of Kyiv, the grief and heartbreak lingers. We hear from

survivors who are trying to rebuild their lives from the rubble.

And then we have a report on the controversial LIV golf tour. Should golfers have more of irresponsibility to learn about the issues that they

are involved in that part of the world, or should they be immune from getting involved in such discussions? We will have that coming up for you

right after this.



NOBILO: Sport is often seen as the world's great equalizer but throw in the influence of both Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia, and you can be sure of

controversy, even before a single game begins. Starting Friday, the Trump National Golf Club will host an event for LIV Golf, and new Saudi backed

professional circuit that is disrupting the sport.

But is it coming at the cost of the game's reputation, especially given Saudi Arabia's record on human rights?

That is what world sports columnist Christine Brennan suggests, citing some of the evasive answers that players have been giving on the matters by

writing: Ah, the magic of golf. Hit a few golf balls and centuries of oppression evaporate.

And Christine joins us now.

Christine, welcome to the program. I wish that were true, but you and I can but say from experience that is not happen when lots of people hit golf


So, what is the moral responsibility that you think a very prominent influential sportsman have when they are going to play on a circuit which

is backed by a country with these kinds of human rights abuses?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Well, Bianca, great to be on with you.

And you know golf even better than I with your wonderful father who, of course, finished in the top ten of all four men's majors back in the `90s.

So you have grown up with it, and I have covered for years.

And, you know, here is the thing. These guys had a job. They were on the PGA tour. It wasn't like they didn't have work. They were making a lot of

money while playing on the PGA tour.

And they chose, as is their right, the players that have now gone to LIV Golf, Saudi-backed LIV Golf, they chose to go into business with Mohammed

bin Salman, who, as you are probably aware, all intelligence agencies, U.S. or otherwise, have said that he ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi,

"The Washington Post" columnist. The killing and dismemberment of Khashoggi back in 2018.

So, you're making a decision if you are Phil Mickelson, or Dustin Johnston or Henrik Stenson, or Paul Casey, you are making a decision to go into

business with them and, in fact, the sports wash, in my opinion, that the crimes of the Saudis have committed over the years. And so, that's the

story. It's not like they're going into business with bill gates or Melinda Gates, or a known entity in the parts of the world. They are going into

business with somebody that deserves the scrutiny that we are not giving to only the Saudis but also to the golfers who are helping them to burnish

their image.

NOBILO: I think around 65 million people around the world play golf. More than that watch it, obviously. Sport has a lot of power.

What do you think the impact of these players deciding to join the store will have on the game overall, on its reputation and I'm bringing new

golfers up in the future and the tours that already exist?

BRENNAN: It is a great point because the game, as you know, is trying to attract new people, especially women, especially people of color,

especially those that have not traditionally played golf.

I played golf my whole life. I love the game. My father has made sure that my daughters as well as his son have fought constable on a golf course was

before that was popular to do that.

Golf in general has a real problem because it is a lot of old white guys hitting golf balls. They will not be around forever. So, when you see the

controversy over the last few months, and you see that these men have gone into business with the Saudis -- of course, there is the 9/11 connection as

well, just and hours drive from Trump national, where I was just a day covering that, was graham zero. And, of course, 15 of the 19 hijackers were

Saudis, in addition to Osama Bin Laden, talking about the 9/11 attacks.

And so, you know, I don't think that is a great PR moment for golf and for the game and the confusion about men's majors, and who will be able to

play, and who won't and the infighting going on. It looks like a bunch of millionaires and billionaires fighting each other. Well, OK, so be it, but

that is what golf is doing with, and it is understandable, of course, that they are independent contractors and they want more power.

It seems to be that there is a way to do that without going into business with these murderers, with the Saudis.

NOBILO: It is so problematic and fraught with potential conflict to tarnish the game. Christine Brennan, thank you for joining us. It's always

a pleasure to talk to you. Really appreciate it.

BRENNAN: You too, Bianca. Thank you.

Now, let's take a look at the other key stories making international headlines at this hour.

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Christine was just talking about, with a handshake in Paris

hours ago. Human rights groups are furious. The prince is accused of ordering the murder of prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. But

Western leaders are now courting Saudi Arabia to try and bring down their oil prices and revive a nuclear deal with Iran.

South Korea state media says the country is now fully prepared to deploy its nuclear deterrence. Leader Kim Jong-un spoke during an event

commemorating the armistice of the Korean War. He's quoted as saying that the DPRK is thoroughly prepared for any clash with the U.S. South Korea

says it deeply regrets these comments.

Heavy rain triggered flash floods in the UAE. Some roads have been destroyed, so authorities are not people living in the effective areas to

stay home. Dubai's National Center of Meteorology said that the rain will start to subside by Thursday evening.

Now, to a mystery deep below the Atlantic Ocean. Researchers have discovered mow holes on the sea floor, but they don't know what made it.

Here they are, perfectly aligned. The ocean exploration, a section of the U.S. federal organization that expose the ocean asked people to share their

theories online.

These kinds of holes were first discovered 18 years ago, and scientists have an idea. They say that an organism living in the sediment could be

responsible, or perhaps a large animal on the sediment surface, goodness. And no, they didn't mention extraterrestrial, if any of you are wondering

that, or what age the aliens.

Thank you for watching. That was THE GLOBAL BRIEF.

And "WORLD SPORT" is coming up for you now.