Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Biden's Thanksgiving Message, Grateful to Gather Again; WHO Says, Europe Could Suffer Another 700,000 COVID-19 Deaths by March; Food Price Hikes May Make This Thanksgiving the Most Expensive Ever. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired November 25, 2021 - 10:30   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Well, President Biden and his family are spending Thanksgiving in Nantucket today, a family tradition that goes back decades but had to be skipped last year because of COVID.

Our White House Correspondent Arlette Saenz is traveling with the president and joins me from Nantucket. Happy Thanksgiving. Good morning, Arlette.

The president just shared a surprise Thanksgiving Day message?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He did, Poppy. And President Biden and his family have descended here on Nantucket, an island off the coast of Massachusetts. They have been visiting for more than 40 years. And a little while ago, the White House -- the president's Twitter account sent out a message of both the president and First Lady Jill Biden, offering some thoughts on this Thanksgiving holiday. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. This is always a special time in America. But this year, the blessings of Thanksgiving are especially meaningful.

JILL BIDEN, U.S. FIRST LADY: After being apart last year, we have a new appreciation for those little moments we can't plan or replicate, the music of laughter and a warm kitchen, the thump of small feet making big sounds, the circle of faces crowded around our dining room table, glowing in the candlelight.

JOE BIDEN: As we gather together again, our table and our hearts are full of grace and gratitude for all those we love. And as commander- in-chief, I'm especially grateful to our service members and their families for the sacrifices to our nation.


SAENZ: And we've already gotten word that the Bidens have participated in some annual Thanksgiving traditions this morning. The president and first lady both called into the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. You can see in that photo there, they are staying at the home of a private equity billionaire, David Rubenstein, here on the island.

Now, Biden has been coming here for more than four decades. And if you talk to folks in town, almost a lot of people have stories of running into Biden when he was vice president, or as senator. But we will see as president, he can't exactly move around the island as easily and freely as he did, back when he was vice president and the senator. But we'll see if the president pops up anywhere over the course of this next few days.

HARLOW: Okay. Arlette, thank you and Happy Thanksgiving. I appreciate the reporting from Nantucket.

SAENZ: Happy Thanksgiving.

HARLOW: As tensions keep rising along the Russia-Ukraine border, President Biden is now reaffirming his support for Ukraine amid reporting from CNN the administration is weighing, sending military advisers and potentially weaponry to Ukraine.


The foreign minister is warning Russia that an attack on this country would be too costly, create political, economic and, of course, human losses. Adding the goal is to avoid war.

Let me bring in Staff Writer for The New Yorker and CNN Global Affairs Analyst Susan Glasser. Susan, thank you. it's very, very good to have you.

Let me just get to some news that just crossed, and that is that NATO's foreign ministers will meet in Latvia next week to discuss the security situation with Russia, sending a strong sign of support to Ukraine. This is coming from Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. How critical is that? I mean, how much of a precipice are we on at this point for a potentially wider war between the two?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Thank you so much, Poppy, and Happy Thanksgiving to you. I do think that this time is different, it appears. Remember the significant military buildup just a few months ago, actually in the immediate run-up to the first Biden/Putin summit. They did have an early summit. It seemed to then de-escalate tensions. There was a sense that Biden wanted to come out of that meeting (INAUDIBLE) establishing if not a better, at least a more stable and predictable relationship with Russia. That has not happened. And this new military buildup, what I'm hearing is signals from a Russia-watchers that really reflect a much enhanced sense of alarm, and that military action is in fact possible.

Now, Vladimir Putin is known over his two decades in power for making late decisions, but wanting to have the options to do things. And remember, as unthinkable as it seems to us, Vladimir Putin has shown previously a willingness to take military action in what he considers to be his sphere of influence. Ukraine, for him, is what he called a red line. Ukraine, for him, is unacceptable, in his view, to enter the sphere of the west, to enter NATO, I think, is what we're really hearing. His desire is to sort of cut even talk of that off right now.

So, it's almost blackmail-type situation. Here's these thousands of troops on your border, do what I want or else.

HARLOW: Right. And, of course, Russia's opposition here largely is to Ukraine getting closer to the west, leaning into NATO. But you do have, I would note, obviously a different Ukraine in terms of military preparedness this time around than in 2014, right? You've got advance anti-tank missiles supplied by Washington, you've got the potential to draw in U.S. intelligence support, but still facing an overwhelming adversary. I mean, how prepared is Ukraine to defend itself should there be a Russian incursion?

GLASSER: Well, I mean, that's an important point to make. Because not only is Ukraine not a member of NATO, but in reality, what you are hearing over and over again from the Biden administration, his expressions of serious concern, you will hear that from NATO foreign ministers. But Russia can take over Ukraine potentially at very grave cost. But, militarily, these are not equally positioned adversaries and there is very little -- it's highly unlikely the U.S. would come to direct military conflict with Russia. Of course, it's not in a position to do so. We don't have a guarantee of mutual assistance, as we do with the other NATO members.

And so, unfortunately, Ukraine is very, very vulnerable when it comes to Russia. Remember that the conflict in East Ukraine that Putin started in 2014, when he also took over the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine, that has continued to this day, essentially in a standoff. But this is a destabilizing move that could actually just change the situation on the ground there, even if Putin did not opt for a full- scale invasion of Ukraine.

HARLOW: There's been a real push by especially Republicans in Congress for the Biden administration to do more, sanctions-wise, when it comes to Nord Stream 2, that gas pipeline. Would that -- would you advise the Biden administration to do that, to take extra sanctioning steps? Would that actually do anything? Would it move Russia's hand at all?

GLASSER: Well, you know, that is the lucky thing about being a journalist, right? We don't have to make the tough decisions on policy. But I would say this. You have round after round of sanctions. They have certainly isolated Russia to a certain extend financially. There's more that can be done. You're already hearing more. But you're also hearing talk among Republicans here in Washington that there should be more direct military assistance.

Biden already approved about $400 million in security assistance for Ukraine this year. By the way, that was the amount, $400 million, in military assistance that Donald Trump held up for months as part of what led to his first impeachment by Congress. But, certainly, the U.S. could send more.


Nord Stream, again, is a pipeline between Russia and Germany. So, it's not within the U.S.'s direct power to shut that down. It's practically ready to receive gas supplies. That's a decision that Germany would have to take in the end. I think that if Russia were to move -- Ukraine, you would see the Germans finally canceling that pipeline, frankly. It would be a huge, huge disruption in the European order for any military move right now by Russia.

HARLOW: Susan Glasser, thank you, as always, and Happy Thanksgiving.

GLASSER: Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving.

HARLOW: Well, next, officials trying to curb rising COVID case in Europe. Some countries are taking new measures. Will it be enough?



HARLOW: In Europe, countries are battling to stop a new wave of COVID cases. Italy, Germany, France are among the countries eyeing tougher restrictions. In fact, Germany just surpassed 100,000 deaths, and saw a record high in new daily COVID infections.

Let's go to our CNN International Correspondent Phil Black. He joins me this morning from London. Phil, good morning to you.

How have fears of this additional wave of COVID affected what should have been a pretty busy winter tourism season?

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Poppy, this is going to be significant, we believe, particularly the countries that are pushed into lockdown-like conditions. Austria is the notable example there so far. Other countries have been reluctant to go that way, but they may have few options as the weeks progress, because the delta variant is spreading rapidly in these colder months with more people indoors. Vaccination coverage across Europe is still pretty patchy. There is huge variation between countries and even within some regions.

So, there's still a lot of people who are vulnerable to infection and potentially serious disease. And even among the vaccinated, there are concerns that immunity may be waning.

So, for all of those reasons, there's a push to get the vaccine programs going further, but there's also an acknowledgement by European health officials that that will not be enough to close what they call the immunity gap quickly enough this winter. So, they are pushing for other restrictions.

France today has said that it is determined not go the lockdown route. It instead is doubling down on its existing health pass system and, once again, making masks mandatory. But cases are rising. There is very much a real cause for concern here in Europe. And it is not entirely clear how they will proceed through these months without implementing tough lockdown measures in some of the countries that worst affected, like Germany, for example. Poppy?

HARLOW: Yes. Wow. Phil black, thank you for that reporting, very much. We'll stay on top of it.

Here in the United States, inflation is hitting everyone, and that includes the farmers that we depend on to put food on our tables. Their story, next.



HARLOW: Right now, with holiday meal preparations underway, families may be cooking up the most expensive Thanksgiving in history. As CNN's Gabe Cohen reports, it is costing farmers too.


GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): As Jim Jones finishes the sweet potato harvest on his North Carolina farm, skyrocketing costs are slicing through his profits.

Are you seeing any more money from this inflation?

JIM JONES, SWEET POTATO FARMER: No, no, we're actually paying for it.

COHEN: The price of fertilizer, fuel and labor are way up with no ceiling in sight.

How did your profit change this year?

JONES: I would say maybe 10 percent, 15 percent.

COHEN: What about looking ahead to next year?

JONES: Add that much more to it again.

COHEN: Inflation may be cooking up the most expensive Thanksgiving in history for families. The USDA says the average dinner cost is up 5 percent. The American Farm Bureau says it may be as much as 14 percent. Their survey shows price hikes on most products, from potatoes to cranberries to turkeys, which are nearing a record high.

Despite the markups at the market, many farmers say the price they receive for their crop isn't going up.

So, your price is staying the same?

JONES: My price is staying the same, or a little lower.

COHEN: Why don't farmers just raise the price of their crops?

PATTY EDELBURG, VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL FARMERS UNION: Farmers are price takers, not price makers.

COHEN: Patty Edelburg is vice president of the National Farmers Union.

Who is making the money from that inflation? EDELBURG: Much more of middle man than anybody else.

COHEN: The USDA confirms that in many cases, processors and distributors that get food from the farm to store shelves are the ones passing along their surge in costs with materials and ingredients still stuck on cargo ships and a shortage of labor and truckers driving up wages and costs.

TREY MALONE, AGRICULTURAL ECONOMIST, MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY: To some extent, we're also trying to pay for the uncertainly in the marketplace right now.

COHEN: Trey Malone is an agricultural economist at Michigan State University.

MALONE: So, we're in the middle of a perfect of unique events in agricultural production. I would say buckle up for a while longer of these higher input costs.

COHEN: Some farms are stocking up on materials in case suppliers run out. Others are waiting, hoping prices to drop. All these costs, especially labor, are threatening Matt Alvernaz's California sweet potato farm.

MATT ALVERNAZ, SWEET POTATO FARMER: We were making $100,000 to $150,000. This year, we're probably going to lose $80,000 to $120,000.

COHEN: And it's only getting worse.

ALVERNAZ: We could potentially lose a quarter million dollars next year. We would not have enough cash to take into the following year in order to get our operating loan in order to operate for the following year.

COHEN: Farmers are used to volatility, and both Alvernaz and Jones are now looking for ways to adapt, like downsizing or shifting to other crops. . They were both looking for ways to adapt like downsizing or shifting to other crops.

JONES: I ain't going to let it keep me down. We will survive somehow.

COHEN: As long as the money problems stop piling up.


JONES: We just need to get a fair price for what we are growing.


HARLOW: Gabe Cohen, thank you for that important reporting.

Well, two people who became unlikely friends after a woman sent a text to a wrong number are keeping their Thanksgiving tradition alive this year. In 2016, Wanda Dench mistakenly and now famously sent a text inviting Jamal Hinton to Thanksgiving, thinking he was her grandson. Once they sorted everything out, Hinton said, well, can I still come to dinner, and Dench said, of course. The two have shared the holiday ever since.


WANDA DENCH, THANKSGIVING HOSTESS: I changed my view of the younger generation. And now that I reflect back on all these years, I didn't change their life. They changed mine.


HARLOW: Cheers to them for this sixth Thanksgiving together, and hopefully many more to come.

Thank you so much for joining us today, wishing you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving. I'm Poppy Harlow.

Our Alex Marquardt picks up after the break.