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More Than 20 Million People Under Winter Storm Alerts; FDA Authorizes Pfizer Vaccine Boosters for Children Ages 12-15. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired January 03, 2022 - 10:30   ET





JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: President Biden reassured Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky Sunday that the U.S. and its allies will respond decisively if Russia invades Ukraine further.

But, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff warns that an invasion is, quote, "Very likely," if the White House does not issue enormous sanctions now.

All this as the U.S. and Russia are set to hold more talks at a lower level next week.

Joining me now to discuss, Donald Jensen. He is the director of Russian strategic stability at the U.S. Institute of Peace, also a former diplomat who is stationed in Moscow. Good to have you on. Thanks so much, Ambassador.


SCIUTTO: So first to -- to this question of sanction and when right? Because the administration, its policy seems to be hold out the prospect of sanctions if Russia invades further. But you do have and among them Democrats saying, you got to penalize now to deter an invasion. And I -- and I wonder what you think is the right approach?

JENSEN: Well, I don't want to comment on the political process, Jim. But, you're absolutely right. There's a debate about doing it in advance or doing it in response to Russia's bad behavior.

For now, there is an approach of ratcheting up the sanctions depending when and if the Russians try something. And I think if they do you're going to see severe measures, financial, political, increased military assistance to Ukraine. And I think, perhaps, even a coordinated (ph) response from our NATO allies in Europe. So, they're sanction -- they're ratcheting up right now.


JENSEN: A lot depends on the outcome of those meetings next week, which is absolutely ...

SCIUTTO: The trouble ...

JENSEN: ... critical (inaudible).

SCIUTTO: ... the trouble is, as you know, that combination's been tried for years. I mean, going back to Russia's invasion and annexation of Crimea some seven years ago.

And then, by the way, they control a lot of territory (ph), as you know, in Easter Ukraine already. The administration's taken some of the tougher realm of sanctions off the table, including sanctioning its energy sector worried about cost to the U.S. and European economies.

I wonder, I mean, do new sanctions have any teeth from the Kremlin's point of view?

JENSEN: I think they -- Jim, I think they would have teeth. We're talking about personal sanctions on Russian oligarchs. We're talking about the possibility of cutting them off from the swift financial system.

The evidence I see is that they're very nervous about that. Whether it's nervous enough to deter them we have to see.

There are a number of significantly stronger things we can do. And I would add that there are the possibility of increased military assistance ...


JENSEN: ... to Ukraine. And those are all on the table.

SCIUTTO: Now that is something, as well, that I -- that I've heard from Democrats as well as Republicans to say, that additional military assistance should go now, right? That you have 100,000 some-odd troops and a whole host of weapons on the Russian side of the border. Ukrainians are asking for increased lethal assistance today. Why not give it to them now rather than wait?

JENSEN: Now, there is -- there is -- good question. There is stuff on the way. And these things are not turned off or on. There's training, there's shipping and all that kind of thing.


So, I think to some extent talking about now or later as if can happen all of a sudden is a little bit unrealistic. That having been said, I think the administration is likely to increase the military assistance.


JENSEN: I should say militarily on the ground, in particular, that the Ukrainians, despite being much improved since 2014, are at a strategic disadvantage. But, they're fighting for their homeland.

The Russians would be in any attack on foreign soil. And I think that's going to make a key difference in the ability of Ukraine to hold them off for a considerable period of time. We have to see.

SCIUTTO: Yes, for sure. Ukrainian military in a much different position that it was seven years ago. By the way, as you noted, they already have additional U.S. military assistance among them, missiles that are designed to be anti-tank missiles, javelins, as they're known.

And that seems to be part of the calculation here that the U.S. and NATO want to raise the cost for Russia so that they calculate it's not a swift and painless invasion. For folks at home who know nothing about Ukraine and think it's a million miles away, how bloody would a conflict like this be? How dangerous would it be/

JENSEN: Well, I think it would be very, very bloody. I think the Russians would most likely, and I -- again, I'm doing this as the non- military expert. The Russians would most likely make considerable initial gains if they moved in the east. The key weakness of the Ukrainians, Jim, is their Air Force which probably cannot provide the proper cover that the Ukrainian Army would need.

However, after a number of months, if the Russians did invade in a massive way, holding that land would be difficult, despite the Kremlin propaganda, the Russian-speaking Ukrainians is not willing to join the invaders, it's not willing to join the Russian Federation.

So, I think it would be very bloody for Putin and the Kremlin and I don't think they want to see Russian boys coming home in body bags for a cause which all the polls show the Ukrainians don't -- that the Russians -- excuser me -- the Russians don't ...


JENSEN: ... feel any support. Most Russians want friendly relations with Ukraine. They don't want a war.

SCIUTTO: Final question if I can. The administration approach is let's give time for diplomacy here. Russia released a big list of demands last week that are already crossing U.S. and NATO redlines here. When you read that did you see Russia allowing time for diplomacy or did you see them as making a case for war?

JENSEN: What I saw there, Jim was an ultimatum. And the ultimatum is strong. It goes into a lot of NATO and western redlines. The question is really, is this just a maximum set of demands or is this something they're going to back off? Where are those red lines in particular? And that's what we're going to find out next week.


JENSEN: About NATO expansion in the future, about weapons to the country's NATO members that border Russia. That's what the negotiations next week are going to -- going to try to uncover and find out.


JENSEN: Perhaps Putin (inaudible) knowing their U.S. and the NATO allies would reject it, giving a pretext to invade, but perhaps this is -- also a maxmillis (ph) set of demands which they will compromise on. We have to see.


JENSEN: And I would say, Jim, as well that from the top down, from Kuskov the present advisor to the foreign minister, to other commentators ...


JENSEN: ... many people have said Russia will compromise on some of these demands. The problem, of course, is will they do it enough. And that's what's we're going to have to see next week.

SCIUTTO: Yes. We'll be watching closely. Donald Jensen thanks so much.

JENSEN: Thank you.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, a tense few weeks and months ahead there in that region.

Well, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will lie in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda next week. It's an honor given to few statesmen. Guests at the January 12 ceremony will be limited because of the pandemic.

Reid died last week at the age of 82. During his three decades in Congress Reid served eight years as a majority leader and spearheaded epic legislative battles.

President Biden served with Reid in the Senate. He called him, one of the all-time great Senate majority leaders in our history.

Well, moments ago the FDA approved a third vaccine dose for kids ages 12 to 15 here in the United States. But, in Israel, they're already giving out a fourth COVID shot. We'll take you live to Jerusalem to find who is eligible.




SCIUTTO: We are watching some snowy winter weather right now that has caused some major disruptions for flights in the East, also the return to school for some school districts. Moments ago, there's President Biden landing at Joint Base Andrews amidst the snowfall here in D.C.

GOLODRYGA: There's snow and then there's kind of snow. That is a lot of snow going down in D.C. right now.

Let's get a meteorologist Chad Myers in the CNN Weather Center. Chad, tell us more about where this storm is headed and who's affected.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, I lived in D.C. long enough with the weather service. Jim, I know you've been there a very long time as well. You know, we always get snow in Gaithersburg, Rockville, but Arlington you know (ph) Joint Base Andrews, that ...


MYERS: ... it's just a slush fest. No. This is exactly the opposite. The heaviest snow is actually going to be southeast of the city. That's where the warnings are right now and that's where the heavy snow is obviously coming down.

Some spots picking up between two and three inches of snow per hour and still a few more hours of snow to go.


So, here's where the snow is now, where the purple is, the darkest purple. That's where the heaviest snow is. The rain is to the east. Some big storms rolled over Cape Hatteras just a couple hours ago, couple of minutes ago too in some spots.

But we will see this weather continue for the rest of the day. Finally pull away from the big cities, even in New England, later on, this evening. So, this is only a one-day event. This is completely going to be all gone.

Here's where we are now. Here's where we're going to be around 1 o'clock. By 5 o'clock, 6 o'clock it's going to start to push off farther and eventually out completely into the ocean. But, not before some spots -- I've already have some reports of 11 inches on the ground in North Carolina and I think we're going to see that across the Delmarva as well. Yes.

GOLODRYGA: Wow. So, the bad news is that it's intense. The good news is that it's short-lived. Chad Myers, thank you.

MYERS: Right.

GOLODRYGA: We appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: Well, Israel is now offering a fourth COVID vaccine shot to anyone over 60. In effect a second booster, I guess, this as well as healthcare workers. The country also lifting, at the same time, some quarantine restrictions.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. Journalist Elliott Gotkine joins us live from Jerusalem. And Elliott, walk us through the country's strategy for confronting the next COVID wave. They really are a bellwether here.

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: They are. Indeed they were Bianna and Jim, for the third shot. Now they're doing the same for the fourth shot. And Israel, of course, will be looking to see the results of it, to see if it's worth rolling out to the rest of the population.

And I guess other countries around the world who are grappling with unprecedented levels of COVID infections will also be taking a very keen interest in this fourth shot rollout to see if it is effective in the fight against Omicron.


GOTKINE, (voice over): Fourth time's the charm? Israel's immunosuppressed began receiving their second booster shots on New Year's Eve. On Sunday evening almost two weeks after trumpeting the plan Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said they'd now be joined by those over 60 and healthcare workers.

NAFTALI BENNETT, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: Israel will once again be pioneering the global vaccination effort. Omicron is not Delta. It's a different ballgame all together. We must keep our eye on the ball, act swiftly and decisively if we want to continue engaging and working with an open country as much as possible throughout this pandemic.

GOTKINE (voice over): To that end, Bennett also announced that quarantine requirements would be lifted completely on people exposed to an Omicron carrier so long as they test negative and their vaccinations are up-to-date.

Yet, with long lines outside testing centers and cases doubling every few days, Israel is bracing itself for the full force of its fifth COVID wave. The only bright spot, it may not last.

ERAN SEGAL, PROFESSOR, WEIZMANN INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE: Our projection is that this wave is going to be rather quick. And that

within about three weeks I estimate that at least two million people here in Israel, which is about one-fourth of the population, is going to -- is going to be infected. And that may lead to a sort of herd immunity, after which we may see a slowdown.

GOTKINE (voice over): For now, though, Israel is hoping Omicron's possibly lower level severity together with the rollout of the second booster will help keep the number of serious cases down. And that like other COVID waves before it this one too shall pass.


GOTKINE: And Israel also saying that it's going to be opening its -- relaxing its border controls on Sunday as well, although some countries, such as America, will still be off limits. So still be on the red list for Israel.

SCIUTTO: Elliott Gotkine there in Jerusalem. Thanks very much.

As we take a short break here's a look at some events we're watching today.



SCIUTTO: Wide receiver Antonio Brown's days as a Buccaneer are over, this after he dramatically, somewhat alarmingly, walked off the field in the middle of the game.

If you haven't seen the video, I mean, it's just -- it's just remarkable to see.

GOLODRYGA: It's stunning. CNN's Andy Scholes is following this story. And Andy, I have to be honest, I've never seen anything like this.


GOLODRYGA: But apparently the warning signs have been there from him for years now.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yes -- yes, guys, you know, I'd say it's shocking but you really can't use that word with anything that happens with Antonio Brown over the last few years.

And, you know, there's clearly some sort of disagreement on the sidelines about going back into the game. According to multiple reports, the coaching staff they had asked Brown to go back in.

He apparently said no multiple times and that's when the coaching staff just told him to leave. And that's when Brown pulled off his jersey and pads and then threw his shirt and gloves into the crowd before waving to the fans and heading to the tunnel.

After the game head coach Bruce Arians said Brown had been dismissed from the team.


BRUCE ARIANS, HEAD COACH OF TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: He is no longer a Buc, all right? That's the end of the story. Let's talk about the guys who went out there and won the game.


TOM BRADY, QUARTERBACK FOR TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: But we all love him. We care about him deeply. You know, we want to

see him be at his best. And, you know, unfortunately, it won't be with our team. I think that the most important thing about football are the relationships with their -- your friends and your teammates and they go beyond the field.

And, you know, I think everyone should -- should be very compassionate and empathetic toward, you know, some very difficult things that are happening.


SCHOLES: Yes, and Brown did not fly home with the team. But, he's been posting on Instragram since leaving that game. One of the posts saying thanks for the opportunity. And this was Brown's second game back since he was suspended three games by the league for misrepresenting his vaccine status. It's one incident in a long lines of things in the last few years, guys.

You know, this was already kind of considered Antonio Brown's last chance. We'll wait and see.

SCIUTTO: Sad to see for him and his family. Andy Scholes, thanks so much.

And thanks so much to all of you for joining us today. I'm Jim Sciutto. Bianna ...

GOLODRYGA: And I'm ...

SCIUTTO: ... welcome.

GOLODRYGA: ... Bianna Golodryga. Thank you. Great to be with you, Jim. At This Hour with Kate Baldwin starts after a quick break.