Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

CNN International: Sources: U.S. Finalizing $2.5 Billion in Military Aid; Germany Facing Pressure from Western Allies to Send Tanks to Ukraine; New Zealand PM Ardern to Step Down by February; Pressure Grows on Germany to Send Tanks to Ukraine; Helicopter Crashed Yesterday Killing Ukraine's Interior Minister Among Others. Aired 8- 8:30a ET

Aired January 19, 2023 - 08:00   ET




MAX FOSTER, CNN HOST: Hello, welcome to CNN "Newsroom", I'm Max Foster in London. Just ahead, Germany is under growing pressure from the U.S. and Western allies to allow the shipment of tanks to Ukraine. I'll speak to the Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister on Kyiv's plead for more weapons.

First Jacinda Ardern says she'll step down as New Zealand's Prime Minister before the next election. She says she has no longer enough energy to do the job justice. The thousands of workers across France staged a walkout over the government's plan to rise the retirement age and it could be one of President Emmanuel Macron's biggest challenges.

U.S. set to finalize one of the largest military aid packages for Ukraine since Russia's invasion nearly a year ago. Sources tell CNN it's valued around 2.5 billion dollars and will include Stryker combat vehicles for the first time. What is likely not contained, however, are the tanks or long range missiles Kyiv has repeatedly asked for? Meanwhile the U.S. Defense Secretary is in Berlin where he met with his new German counterpart and delivered a message of unity as Germany faces increased pressure to send tanks to Ukraine.


LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Germany has remained a true friend of the United States and astonished defender of our allies and values. So we'll continue to support Ukrainian people as they resist Russian aggression and defend their sovereign territory.


FOSTER: Ukraine says modern tanks are desperately needed to fend off Russian advances and recapture its occupied territory. Alex Marquardt joins us from Washington. Thanks for joining us, Alex. So Ukraine wants the tanks America won't send them, but America wants Germany to send them? ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the U.S. wants Germany, wants Ukraine to have Western tanks. The U.S. doesn't want to send its own main battlefield tank which is called an M 1 Abrams for logistical and mechanical issues. Many agree that it is just not the best tank that is suited for this fight in Ukraine.

Instead, what the U.S. and many European countries are hoping is that Germany will give permission to send the leopard 2 tanks, that many believe are much better suited to that fight. Not only that Germany itself would send its tanks but that the other European countries that have hundreds of these leopard 2 tanks themselves would be given permission by the Germans to send these tanks. Germany having made this tank manufacturing this tank has to give their permission.

Now a Senior Defense Official who is traveling with Lloyd Austin to Germany says that they're very optimistic that they can get to that point by the end of the week with the Germans. The U.S. side saying that they're putting a lot of pressure on Germany as you just mentioned, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, he has meetings with several top German officials today.

Tomorrow in Ramstein, Germany, the U.S. is hosting a meeting of the Ukraine contact group with more than 50 countries and organizations that get together to talk about military aid for Ukraine.

But we are hearing from sources here in the U.S. Max, that the U.S. is getting close to finalizing a $2.5 billion aid package or this will be one of the biggest yet what is notable is not only what is not in the package, including long range ATACMS missiles that the Ukraine has desperately been asking for. But really what is new in this package, and that is the Stryker combat vehicles.

This is an armored vehicle that would allow Ukrainian troops to be carried across the battlefield it would really give Ukraine a new mechanized capability, particularly when combined with the Bradley fighting vehicle that the U.S. has just committed to Ukraine in the last aid package, over $3 billion, which is the biggest to date. So the Bradley's and the strikers together really do give the Ukrainians a significant new mechanized offensive capability that will allow them to try to take back territory from the Russians, Max.

FOSTER: OK, Alex, thank you so much for joining us with that. It's not just the U.S. and other Western allies, including the U.K. are urging Germany to send those Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine or at least to allow other countries to do so.

Earlier Poland's Prime Minister says Warsaw will either receive permission to transfer German made tanks to the battlefield or "We will do the right thing ourselves". On Wednesday, President Zelenskyy urged the world to move faster.


FOSTER: He said Western suppliers of weapons must outpace Russian attacks because right now he says tyranny is outpacing democracy. CNN's Clare Sebastian joins me now in London. What's the holdup here? Do we know why the Germans are so apprehensive about getting approval to send tanks?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Germany has been traditionally slow in making these decisions. They have a long standing policy of not supplying weapons to conflict or crisis zones or even allowing the re-export of them. So I think this is the stance that Germany has taken since the beginning and they are, you know, having trouble getting over it.

They also have the concerns that other countries have, which is that this could be interpreted by Russia as an escalation. And I think it's clear that it will be we're hearing from the Kremlin today, the discussions about supplying Ukraine with weapons that can reach Russian territory, obviously, that doesn't just apply to tanks, but long range artillery, things like that.

They call extremely dangerous, the Kremlin spokesman saying it will mean bringing the conflict to a new qualitative level, a level that will not bode well. For European security, they have been very clear they will see Western weapons as a target and I mean, while increasing their own military posture, investing heavily in the military, increasing its size, things like that.

So I think that's one of the considerations, not just for Germany, but for all countries who participated in this. Having said that, they Max we are seeing new pledges come through, based on Ukraine's increased request, Estonia and Sweden both announcing their own new military practice of Ukraine today.

FOSTER: And the latest situation on the ground?

SEBASTIAN: Well, I mean, we're seeing a lot of rhetoric coming from Ukrainian officials about the difficulties they're facing. We know that in the east of the country, the battles are still grinding on there. A joint statement today came out from the Defense and Foreign Ministers in Ukraine, saying that they continue to be outgunned.

Russia has a superior amount of troops and equipment and we know that they are very concerned about what's coming next whether Russia could be regrouping for a new offense if that of course combined with the ongoing bombardment that's affecting their electricity grid.

FOSTER: Clare thank you and in a few minutes I'll be speaking to Ukraine's Deputy Foreign Minister about all of this, he's been highly critical of Germany's reluctance to send those tanks that interview after the break.

A shock announcement meanwhile, from one of the world's most powerful women, New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, says she'll be stepping down in just a matter of weeks. In a visibly emotional statement, she said she doesn't have the energy to lead the government anymore.


JACINDA ARDERN, NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER: Takes and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It's that simple. I know there will be much discussion in the aftermath of this decision as to what the so called real reason was; I can tell you that what I'm sharing today is it. The only interesting angle that you will find is that after going on six years of some big challenges, I am human, politicians are human. We give all that we can for as long as we can and then it's time and for me, it's time.


FOSTER: Ivan Watson covering this from Hong Kong for us. You know a towering figure on the world stage this Prime Minister but she has become less popular as well, in recent months in New Zealand and some cynics suggesting that might be why she's stepping down.

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, she, her support in the polls had dropped her party lost a seat in a by election in December, which was seen as just a sign of how difficult what an uphill battle Jacinda Ardern and her Labor Party would have in an upcoming election.

And so this announcement really shocked New Zealand it rippled around the world. And it stunned members of her own party because she is the Leader of the party and the most popular person that they have to try to win an election.

Big question is who would take over the Prime Minister seat after she steps down? She set this deadline of February 7. There's going to be a meeting on Sunday, where labor parliament members are going to try to choose somebody at least two thirds would have to choose that individual or then this process would get more drawn out and there's a lot of speculation who would want this position next.

After Ardern she talked about just not having enough gas in the tank, just being exhausted from this job. And reaction varies because of course while she enjoyed great popularity a couple of years ago, that has fallen in recent months. Take a listen to some of the voices we're hearing from New Zealand.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think she was an excellent Leader. And I'm devastated that she's going, she's resigning

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a business owner. This is a wonderful day. The restrictions and the extra compliance and the extra tax on business that has happened and especially staffing levels where there's no immigrants has with left us all short, all stressed out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was awesome. She did everything she could during the pandemic kept a lot of people safe. Yes, I think she's going to have a great legacy.



WATSON: Right and Ardern was clearly the most famous or arguably the most internationally popular Prime Minister that New Zealand has ever had. She was also the third female Prime Minister.

One of Helen Clark, a Former Prime Minister also from the Labor Party put out a statement, and she hinted at what might have also contributed to this decision to resign, saying, "The pressures on Prime Ministers are always great, but in this era of social media, click bait and 24/7 media cycles, Jacinta has faced a level of hatred and vitriol which in my experience is unprecedented in our country".

And she's urging and New Zealanders to reflect on this and to think about this, but one of the facts that her government and her party was bumping up against were some of these kind of post COVID challenges of inflation, a housing shortage, soaring housing prices, all of this contributed to perhaps to the decline in her popularity.

Ardern said in her statement today that she looks forward to taking her daughter to school she gave birth to a child in the Prime Minister's seat that was very unusual and attracted international headlines. And she also said she looked forward to finally getting married with her partner back to you.

FOSTER: There Ivan Watson, thank you. Parts of France are at a standstill over the President's pension reform plan. As you can see in these protests, people are overwhelmingly against the plan to rise the legal retirement age from 62 to 64.

Amongst these people, at least the goal is to keep the pension system afloat, but eight of France's largest unions have rejected that and shut down railway schools and even the Eiffel Tower. We'll have more on why pension reform is so controversial later in the show. There's also a workers strike here in England and here it's nurses.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do we do we want?


FOSTER: Thousands of nurses walked off the job on Wednesday upset about their pay in high stress. They say their wages aren't keeping up with inflation making it hard just to pay the bills.


VICTORIA BANERJEE, SENIOR NURSE: Everything has continued to increase except for our pay. Our working conditions have not changed. In fact, they've got worse and it's just becoming more and more of a struggle, more nurses are using food banks. They're working extra shifts they're doing extra agency work just to cover their basic bills.


FOSTER: The government says it won't revisit the 4 to 5 percent Raise it awarded last year the U.K. is fighting a nasty 10.5 percent inflation rate right now. Tensions are high in Peru as anti-government protesters converge on the Capitol there. This was the scene on Wednesday in Lima as demonstrators clashed with Police. The country's ombudsman says 51 people have died since the protests began last month, who has been paralyzed as the ouster and arrest of the Former President Pedro Castillo. Demonstrators are calling for the current President to step down. Journalist Stefano Pozzebon has been monitoring the protests since they began last month. He joins us now live from Bogota, Colombia. Are they making any progress will the government shift?

STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: Not really, Max, it's clear to see that Peru is currently in a standstill with protesters taking to the streets day after day, demanding political change, demanded the current President Dina Boluarte to leave the office and demanding for fresh elections.

Boluarte the sixth Head of State that Peru has had in the last five years. So but if you listen to what the protesters are saying today, yesterday, for example, and the previous days you can see that the changing power is not what it's going to take a solution to these crises because really, the core of the crisis is a cost of living is a crisis of corruption and inflation, which is remarkably similar.

By the way to what we're seeing in England and France. We, our team in Lima were able to speak with one of them yesterday. Here is why people improve are taken to the streets.


CARLOS, SOCIOLOGIST: Well, as I said, there are several urgent needs. But right now, political situation, the merits and change of representatives, government of the executive and the legislature. That is the immediate thing because there are other deeper issues, inflation, lack of employment, poverty, malnutrition, and other historical issues that have not been addressed.


POZZEBON: So you can see, Max, that as I said, the program presidency has been a sort of revolving door over the last five years or so. So even with the new President taking over from Boluarte and perhaps creasing the country to new general elections, which would be again, history repeating itself. It's hard to see a solution to the crisis unless the real root causes of these contents are addressed, Max.


FOSTER: OK Stefano Pozzebon thank you so much. Still to come Ukraine's Deputy Foreign Minister joins us with an update on the situation there and tells us what his country needs to that countering bolster the counter against Russia's brutal assault.


FOSTER: Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is urging countries to act more quickly when it comes to sending military aid as we've been reporting pressure is growing on Germany to ship tanks to Ukraine which it says it desperately needs more equipment in that fight against Russia. High level talks are happening right now in Berlin between the U.S. Defense Secretary and Germany's new Defense Minister. Mr. Zelenskyy says the time to act is now.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE: I would like to thank again for the assistance to our partners but at the same time, there are times where we shouldn't hesitate or we shouldn't compare when someone says I will give tanks if someone else will also share his tanks. I'm strong in Europe and I can share if someone outside of Europe will contribute as well. I don't think this is the right strategy to go with.


FOSTER: Ukraine's Deputy Foreign Minister Andriy Melnyk joins me now from Kyiv, thank you so much for joining us. If you don't get the news you want out of this meeting in Berlin.


FOSTER: That you will get these tanks. So what will be your reaction?

MELNYK: Well, for most we expect a quantum leap in weapons delivery. We do appreciate what our key allies for most United States have been doing since the beginning of this terrible war. But now, key issue is to create this coalition, this tank coalition and Leopard tanks should be at the core of this tank coalition.

So we hope that Defense Secretary Austin, who is now in Berlin, would manage to persuade our German colleagues to stop this blockade and to release the decision and to allow also other partners in Europe, but also in other countries to send those tanks. There are about 2000 to level up our tanks in the armed forces of our European allies and it is crucial. We are now at the crucial moments at the crossroads of this war.


MELNYK: And without a doubt those main battle tanks it will not be possible to free to liberate so many occupied territories which are still under Russian terror regime. And therefore we hope that tomorrow in Ramstein, there will be a decision proclaimed that Germany and other countries join this alliance and but also we need much more.

We need a kind of alliances for fighter jets that something which is on the table since Mansur we would also need the jet fighter F-16, we would need to German to NATO fighters and much more in order to allow our armed forces to three our lands and to push back the Russians.

FOSTER: Do you have some sympathy with the Germans who obviously prior to this war wouldn't have ever allowed military because of its history to be exported from Germany or indeed for German weapons to end up in a foreign war?

MELNYK: You're right. Exactly one year ago, we were talking and I used to be an ambassador to Germany, we were talking about helmets to be centered for the Ukrainian army 5000 helmets and that was a huge debate.

So now we are a step forward and thanks god that our German friends and partners are moving ahead, not as quickly as we would like to see. But still, we have a positive development and what is at stake is our survival as a nation as a stage for Ukraine.

And therefore, we hope that our German friends would understand the necessity of those new deliveries of main battle tanks, and much more. We would also need some warships, we would need to submarines.

We would need to ballistic rockets like outer comes from the U.S. and from other European allies, in order to ensure that our army would be capable to start and counter offensive in the coming months, they should be prepared well. But without that military equipment, we would not be capable and able to do that.

Therefore, our hopes are there, we praise, the help that we have received. But still, it is unfortunately not enough, as my President just mentioned, and therefore the dimension is huge. We should compare that maybe with the Lend-Lease Act of the United States 1941. And I just like to remind the U.N. remarks and you're the audience at that time, the States have sent to the Soviet Union to defeat Nazi Germany over 14,000 jets over 8000 tanks and much more.

So that is the dimension that you would expect totally about 50 billion U.S. dollar in prices of 41, now it maybe 700 billion U.S. dollar. So that's the dimension that we would expect our partners to understand. And without help that we have been receiving, it would not have been possible to free our lands now in the Kherson and Kharkiv region, but this year shall be crucial for us.

We would like to end this war in this year and only with the help of our key allies, United States has been playing a key role but also hopefully Germans will join this alliance. We've seen that our friends in the U.K. have decided to send challenger main battle tanks Estonia, small Estonia declared today that they will send weapons for like 1 percent of the GDP. And if you compare it to Germany, if Germany would follow that example, we would have like 40 Billion U.S. dollar of help.

FOSTER: OK, I just want to ask before you go, just a quick word on this tragedy yesterday with your colleagues who died in that horrible helicopter accident yesterday and also, of course, people on the ground. What's the latest you understand on the investigation now and what might have happened?

MELNYK: The investigation is still ongoing. We have lost not just the Leadership of the Ministry of Interior, but I lost my friend he was a First Deputy Minister, Yevhen Yenin and there is the sorrow which is not too measurable now.

It is still too early to say what was the reason why the helicopter crashed in Brovary it's not far from Kyiv, if there are some versions which are now under scrutiny under investigation, maybe a pilot mistake or a technical problem or even a sabotage so that's these are three main versions now.


MELNYK: But in any case, it is clear since the Leadership of the Ministry. They were heading eastwards to Kharkiv. It is closely connected with this war, it is a tragedy of this war and we hope that with the help of our partners, also for the Ministry of Interior because they have the National Guard.

They have the guys now, helping the army in the Eastern to free to liberate the territories. It is a challenge that we face and we hope that our American friends, our European allies would help us in pushing back the Russians as soon as possible.

FOSTER: OK, Andriy Melnyk, really appreciate your time and our condolences over the accident of course, Ukraine's Foreign Minister, Deputy Foreign Minister speaking to us there. We'll be back in just a moment.


FOSTER: British Actor Julian Sands has been identified as a missing hiker on Mount Baldy in Southern California. Sands is known for his work in shows like 24 and movies like a room with a view. Please say he was reported missing last Friday authorities are using drones to look for the actor. We'll bring you updates as we get them. Thanks for joining me here on CNN "Newsroom", I'm Max Foster in London "World Sport" with Amanda up next.