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Biden Condemns Putin's "Overt" Nuclear Threat; 2 Americans Freed After Being Captured By Russia While Fighting For Ukraine In June; Putin Mobilizes 300,000 Russian Reservists, Threatens Nukes; Fiona Headed Towards Bermuda As Category 4 Storm, Millions Without Power In Puerto Rico; "Champions For Change": Police Chief Sets New Tone For Laws Enforcement. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired September 21, 2022 - 14:30   ET



KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: President Putin has violated the United Nations charter and making it clear that no one sought this conflict when it comes to the Ukraine war except for the Russians.

The president also spoke to what he sees as the Russian motivation for this war.

Listen to what he said.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This war is about extinguishing Ukraine's right to exist as a state, plain and simple. Ukraine's right to exist as a people.

Wherever you are, wherever you live, whatever you believe, that should not -- that should make your blood run cold.


ATWOOD: The president also spoke to disturbing trends when it comes to conversations about nuclear weapons and nuclear buildup. He called out Russia for what he called dangerous, threatening remarks when it comes to their nuclear weapons.

And we saw the rhetoric overnight, once again, from President Putin.

But when it comes to nuclear weapons, he also called out China for building up their military capacity in a way that is not transparent. Their nuclear buildup, he said, it is not a transparent one.

And when it is coming to Iran, and their nuclear weapons program, he said that the United States is still trying to make sure they do not acquire a nuclear weapon.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Kylie, you also have new about the two Americans who were captured by Russia after they went to fight for Ukraine this summer. What is the status?

ATWOOD: Yes. Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh, are two Americans veterans who went over to Ukraine to fight and they were captured back in June by Russian-backed proxies.

Their families have not heard from them over the course of the past few months. And I spoke to their family members. Just today, they found out that they were part of this prisoner of war swap between Ukraine and Russia.

And one of their family members said that the news took them right off of their feet. They are incredibly grateful that these two Americans have been released.

Right now, they are in Saudi Arabia undergoing some medical checks, and then they will be coming back here to the United States.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Kylie Atwood, thank you.

CAMEROTA: Let's bring in retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Peter Zwack, a former U.S. senior defense attache to Russia.

And CNN global affairs analyst, Susan Glasser. She is a staff writer for "The New Yorker" and a co-author for the new book, "The Divider, Trump in the White House."

Great to see both of you.

Susan, can this be an inflection point? I mean, the idea that Vladimir Putin is going to call up 300,000 reservists. Is public opinion in Russia going to along with that huge of a number?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, he has been resisting the number because of the potential blowback of Russia. And you are seeing the protests across the country.

And tonight, there are arrests of people walking down the street, and several hundred of them in central Moscow saying, "No to war, no to war."

And this is for Russian men who have served previously. This is for conscripts who have served previously.

It is one thing for contract soldiers from largely poor regions of Russia are being forced to fight in your name, but it is an entirely different thing if it is going to hit home in your family.

And this is why Putin is resisting it, because the sign here is a success of Ukraine in the war so far, that they have forced Putin to take this action that he did not want to take.

BLACKWELL: Well, General, how much does the partial mobilization that 300,000 reservists going to solve? Is it a lack of manpower or something more fundamental of the failures so far from Russia?

RETIRED BRIG. GEN. PETER ZWACK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Victor, there's fundamental deep-down problems that have really, really poured out in this seven-month campaign, and the Kharkiv counteroffensive brought it out in full bloom and proved that the epic Ukrainian defense and the Russian disaster outside of Kyiv was not a one-off.

Yes, there's deep systemic problems. Remember, good news, succession is contagious. But bad news, failure is contagious. And the word of the awful conflict and the prisoners and the tens of thousands of Russians are filtering up.

So the Russians have a problem, and this call-up -- remember, just a month ago, Putin put out, you know, a decree on 137,000 recruits, and that was before the Kharkiv counter. And now, I mean, it is a real mess.

And as Susan Glasser stated, this is deep and existential, I believe, for the Kremlin regime and Putin, itself. Already 500 Russians have been arrested for being out on the streets.


CAMEROTA: Susan, the notion, Susan, that Vladimir Putin would dip into the nuclear arsenal, he is not -- how realistic is that, and is he that unhinged and angry?

GLASSER: Look, he has used nuclear blackmail and nuclear threats from the beginning of the conflict with Ukraine. Back in February, he used rhetoric that not deployed by any responsible leader, never mind a member of the United Nations Council, which Russia has been.

And Putin is using the nuclear weapons once again pushed into the corner. That is the fear of Putin.

And not that he is unhinged, per se, but as he is pressed on to the defense that he may be likely to take an action that would surprise.

Or something to change the calculations on the ground if he cannot do so directly by pushing back against the Ukrainians on the ground, he may change the war in a dramatic way.

And there was a fear from the very beginning that tactical nuclear weapons are part of the Russian military docket in a way that is, if they are defined as reaching into Russia itself or some existential threat into the Putin regime.

And that is the fear right now, reaching deep into the way that Putin made the argument that it is actually the West that was threatening nuclear weapons.

And I know of no such threats of the Western countries to do such a thing.

BLACKWELL: Nuclear aside, General, we have obviously reported on some of the hardware challenges. A lot of it left behind as Russian forces left some of their territory.

Does Russia have the hardware, the vehicles, the weaponry to support the additional mobilization?

ZWACK: It is a great question. And the answer is not in the near term. They have lost so much hardware in the last six month.

And it is not just creating 300,000 troops. First of all, you have to bring them in through the military commissar in mainstream Russia and fringe aspects of it.

And they have to be trained. And veteran forces, and a lot of them are out of shape, and they have not been doing for it a long time, as the reserves in Russia are not routinely.

And so you have to put that together, and now you have to equip them. And that is second-rate stuff, whatever is left in the depots and maybe a trickle of new stuff. That bad.

Then there's the will and the morale aspect. These people don't want to go, the bulk of them. And no matter how much you claim Mother Russia or an existential Western threat, the word is getting up, the bad news is permeating, and this is awful.

They are being trained to be basically, as General Hertling said, cannon fodder. They're going to go into a grinder and trickling in. It is not going to be 300,000.

This will take a long process. And it is -- the Ukrainians have got the will the fight. And --


CAMEROTA: They certainly have. No one is doubting the Ukrainian morale, as we have seen over the last six-plus months.

Retired Brigadier General Peter Zwack and Susan Glasser, thank you.

ZWACK: Thanks.


More than a million Puerto Rican resident are still without power after Hurricane Fiona. Where the category 4 storm is heading next, after the break.



CAMEROTA: Hurricane Fiona is now barreling towards Bermuda as a powerful category 4 storm with winds at 130 miles per hour.

The storm tore through Turks and Caicos yesterday with trees and flooding the roads. In the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, millions of people are still without power or running water.

BLACKWELL: CNN Meteorologist Tom Sater is tracking storm.

And so, Fiona is expected to make land fall in Bermuda when?

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, it is not looks like direct landfall, Victor and Alisyn. It should stay just to the left. But it will be late tomorrow into Friday morning.

If you notice in this infrared satellite imagery, that eye is still well defined. The first major hurricane of the Atlantic season.

And in broad scope, it is getting larger in the wind field. The water temperatures are ripe for it to be category 4 until it gets further to the north. But as a category 1, it could cause problems later on.

Good news, most of the activity in the eye center, with the precipitation on the northwestern flank. If it stays there, that's better for Bermuda.

This is greatly concerning. This could be one of the strongest systems for the Canadian maritime. As it is moves into the region, we could have widespread power outages.

The entire eastern seaboard is going to have high seas, very dangerous and life-threatening rip currents the entire way, coming very close to Bermuda. Doesn't look like a landfall. It's possible if it shifts a little bit.


But this is a great concern for the entire region of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador as the system plows right into this region. Remember, those winds fields are getting much long, wider.

Some of these winds, 123 miles per hour at Sable Island and they continue that way.

The next problem that we will have, we are watching off of the coast of South Africa -- excuse me -- South America is this acorn that could become the great oak tree.

This is the one to watch, everyone. This could be a major hurricane as it slights the Caribbean, knocking on Florida or the gulf coast in the next several days.

We have some time to watch this. But everyone have their eyes on this one. It could be extremely, extremely dangerous.

BLACKWELL: We know that you will be watching it.

Tom Sater, thank you.

And for more information about how you can help the victims Hurricane Fiona, go to

NASA's first Salvadorian-American astronaut just arrived at the International Space Station.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NASA ANNOUNCER: And liftoff. A sunset start to the mission of Rubio to the International Space Station.


BLACKWELL: Dr. Frank Rubio launched earlier today on the Russian Soyuz capsule and will spend six months at the space station as a flight engineer.

CAMEROTA: Rubio, who shared the flight with two Russian cosmonauts, is the first NASA astronaut to travel to the space station since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

BLACKWELL: The Federal Reserve just announced a consequential rate hike, again. How the change impacts you. We'll talk about it, next.



CAMEROTA: All this week, in a series we call "CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE," we're highlighting everyday people who are making positive changes and getting things done.

Today, I introduce you to a local police chief in Connecticut who started implementing serious police reform years before it became a national conversation following George Floyd's murder.

It's not easy to be a beloved cop right now. But as you're about to see, Chief Foti has put in the work with his community and it's paid off.


UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: I think Foti epitomizes what policing should be, realizing that times have changed and the duties of a police officer have changed.

CAMEROTA: I had heard for years that the people in Westport, Connecticut, love their police chief. Why do they love their police chief, particularly in this climate of tension?

And so I just wanted to find out what he's doing that could be implemented around the rest of the country.

So we're going to get in the car and you're going to take me for a drive.


I moved to the U.S. from Greece at the age of 11, not knowing a word of English. I started as a police officer in 1996.

CAMEROTA: What I found is that Chief Foti has managed to successfully straddle the line between being pro cop and pro community. HAROLD BAILEY, COMMUNITY LEADER: Foti started looking into these

issues years before George Floyd. When Michael Brown had just been killed, we talked about what needed to change, what didn't.

And what I saw out of him was someone who listened and we saw there was some change in his perspective, but there was change in ours as well for a number of us. Because we got to see what they had to deal with.

And we saw out of him a commitment to look at what was going on in the police force and establish a set of standards.

KOSKINAS: The day of the George Floyd incident we were not backpedaling and backtracking or making excuses. Or even fighting the changes. We had already made the changes.

So chokeholds, duty to intervene, they're all common sense. Every police department who be doing this.

DAN WOOG, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: I think he takes so seriously the idea that he's the police chief of everyone, whether it's the LGBTQ rally, Black Lives Matter. He was in the middle of it showing that he was there.

CAMEROTA: I stand here with you, I marched with you.

I specifically said to the group that I will kneel with you, but I will kneel with you for a moment of silence. I will kneel with you for a moment of prayer. And I will kneel with you against police brutality.

I will absolutely not kneel with you against police. And I will not kneel with you against the flag.

I have challenged the status quo at times. I've gotten in trouble for challenging the skats challenging the status quo. But if I didn't, I wouldn't change a thing about it.

CAMEROTA: There are a lot of unanswered questions.

So for five years, in my 20s, I was a reporter at the crime show "America's Most Wanted." Then when I worked at that show, it really opened my eyes to all that police do and how the best ones -- and I'm not saying there aren't bad ones.

But the best ones go above and beyond and really are there for all the right reasons and are doing it for the justice of the community.

KOSKINAS: We hold a lot of different programs so we can get involved with the community. We do a cornhole, which seems to be the up-and- coming thing. It's set up by high school kids and the officers participate in it.

For me, as the police chief, to be in shorts and a T-shirt playing cornhole, I'm just one of them at that point. When there's a crisis or when something is happening at the high

school, and we've had real lockdowns, these kids have had the comfort to go to the school resource officer.

CAMEROTA: He's walking the walk literally. People know him. He stops to say hello to people. He grants kids' wishes.

KOSKINAS: It's show time. Let's go have some fun.

We have a Green 32.


Come on, come on, come on explode! Come on, one more time.

UM: You can't fake what he does. You can't fake his smile. You can't fake his enthusiasm. You can't fake his genuineness. What you see is what you get, and we're lucky to get it.


BLACKWELL: We have the conversations about community policing often. And sometimes people see that as just in uniform walking the streets, having conversations with people sitting on the stoop.

But what he does is shorts and T-shirt, we'll play cornhole, I'll meet you at a restaurant, we'll sit and talk, which apparently is working.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. You saw there one of the young guys who is volunteering, and he gets a ride-along. He is granting kids' wishes.

But mostly, why I wanted to feature him was because he had implemented these reforms. It's not easy, but he did it years ago. And it pays dividends.

He was a visionary. He was ahead of his time. And it was necessary and it worked out.



BLACKWELL: Great story.

CAMEROTA: OK, so we will continue to share these inspirational stories all week. Be sure to tune in Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern for the "CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE" one-hour special super-inspirational stories.

BLACKWELL: The New York attorney general credits Michael Cohen for helping launch the investigation that led to today's massive civil lawsuit against Trump, his family and business.

What does Michael Cohen think about all of this? Well, we will ask him. He'll join us live, coming up.