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Allies Discussing Military Aid to Ukraine at Meeting in Germany; Lawmakers Under Pressure to Avoid U.S. Government Default; U.S. Defense Chief Lloyd Austin Addressing Military Air Conference; Zelenskyy Addressing Allies' Military Aid Conference. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired January 20, 2023 - 04:00   ET



MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and a warm welcome to our views joining us in the United States and all around the world. I'm Max Foster in London. Bianca is back next week. But just ahead on CNN NEWSROOM.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: One of the big questions that will surround the Ukraine defense contact group in Germany on Friday where 50 nations or so will come together to find and ship and organize weapons to Ukraine revolves around the issue of tanks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congress and the White House engaged in a risky standoff as the U.S. reaches a 31.4 trillion borrowing limit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Singer, songwriter, guitarist David Crosby was an American music icon. David Crosby was 81 years old.


ANNOUNCER: Live from London, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Max Foster and Bianca Nobilo.

FOSTER: It is Friday, January 20th, 9 a.m. here in London, 10 a.m. in Ramstein, the airbase in Germany where Western allies are gathering at this hour to talk about Ukraine's military needs and how they can help.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is hosting the conference of more than 50 countries. The U.S. has already announced another $2.5 billion in aid including Stryker combat vehicles, more Bradley fighting vehicles and Avenger Air Defense Systems but Ukraine's president says tanks are the top priority.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): But one of the most important elements is tanks, modern Western tanks, which we are negotiating with our partners to supply and I think everyone who has already made the appropriate decisions.


FOSTER: The Ramstein conference comes as CNN has learned about a secret meeting in Kyiv where CIA Director Bill Burns briefed Ukraine's president about Russia's battle plans for the spring.

Meanwhile, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in a Telegram post on Thursday that Moscow may use nuclear weapons if it loses in Ukraine.

CNN has reporters across all of these developments. Alex Marquardt is in Washington with details of the new U.S. military aid for Ukraine. Nada Bashir is live in London reporting on the allies meeting in Germany. But first to Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon on the standoff between Washington and Berlin over tanks for Ukraine.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: One of the big questions that will surround the Ukraine defense contact group in Germany on Friday where 50 nations or so will come together to find and ship and organize weapons to Ukraine revolves around the issue of tanks. And that's because there's a growing standoff, an impasse, if you will, between Germany and the U.S. on sending tanks.

The U.S. has sent a tremendous amount of mechanized armor capability, such as more than 100 Bradleys now committed, Stryker armored vehicles -- which are designed to move infantry across the battlefield. But the U.S. has not yet approved its own M1 Abrams tank and there's a specific reason for that. The U.S. views those as too heavy, too difficult to maintain, too much essentially of a logistical nightmare for them to be useful to Ukraine.

Instead, the U.S. has put pressure on Germany to approve the transfer of its Leopard tanks to Ukraine. A tank used by a number of countries throughout Europe. All of whom, if they were willing, would be able to provide those to Ukraine, a capability Ukraine has been asking for, for quite some time now.

But Germany has not yet given its approval. In fact, German leadership has said they won't do so unless the U.S. provides its own tanks. A U.S. official told CNN they have us over the barrel. Germany does not seem to be relenting from this sticking point and the U.S. doesn't see its tanks useful in Ukraine so it not going to send them. The question can this impasse be broken.

Poland and Finland have both expressed a willingness to send their own German made Leopard tanks. Of course, that relies on Germany giving the approval first and that will be the big question hanging over the Ukraine defense contact group meeting in Ramstein in Germany. We will hear from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley, to see if there was any break in this impasse and any way to move forward.

A senior defense official did say just a couple of days ago that they were optimistic that this would be solved or resolved in some way by the end of the week. But administration officials here were much more cautious about whether there was a way forward through this impasse with Germany that would allow either Germany or other countries to send in their tanks to Ukraine.

Oren Liebermann, CNN, in the Pentagon.



FOSTER: Let's get more on this from Nada Bashir. The U.S. is holding this meeting in Europe. It's absolutely massive, isn't it. And a huge amount of pressure specifically on Germany.

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Absolutely, I mean, this is the key focus now, more tanks. And this is real this is really centered on Germany. This is the eighth time we've seen a session like this the (INAUDIBLE) back in April. But the real focus now is on that potential for a spring offensive by Russia. Concerns around that and the need, according to Ukraine, for more modern weaponry and armament and in particular those tanks now. As you heard there in Oren's report in the U.S. has said it won't be supplying the M1 Abrams to Ukraine.

FOSTER: They're not suited to the terrain. Is that right?

BASHIR: Exactly. But also too complicated, logistically complex, it's difficult to maintain on the ground in Ukraine. Those are the reasons that they're giving. But the U.S. has been clear it is still in support of providing more modern tanks to Ukraine. And that's where Germany comes in and that's where the major sticking point is.

FOSTER: Because they control not only their own tanks but also who sells German-made tanks.

Exactly, they control the export licenses for those Leopard tanks. And of course, we've already heard from Poland. They say they're keen to send those tanks to Ukraine. They may well go ahead with that regardless of Ukraine.

FOSTER: We're looking at the live pictures from the airbase. The CIA director obviously having this, what was a secret meeting with the Ukrainian president, and he would have had, you know, the best intel probably on what Russia might be planning for the spring.

BASHIR: Absolutely, and this isn't the first time we've seen the CIA director visiting Ukraine and actually take two back-to-back visits back in October and November. He's been key point of support for President Zelenskyy and others in intelligence officials Ukraine.

And we're learning now -- according from one U.S. official and two Ukrainian intelligence sources who are familiar with these talks -- that he was there to provide a briefing to President Zelenskyy and Ukrainian intelligence officials regarding that spring offensive.

Now we don't have any further details on that meeting but of course we do know the U.S. has been playing a key part in keeping the Ukrainian armed forces aware of what their intelligence is telling them regarding that spring offensive.

But the message from President Zelenskyy, regardless of that meeting, has been clear. They still need more weapons. For now, the concern from Ukraine is that at this stage Ukraine has enough to perhaps stave off a Russian victory but not enough to go on the offensive to establish a Ukrainian win. And that is, of course, the concern.

We've also seen the CIA director in the past meeting with Russian officials. We heard actually just on Wednesday from the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov acknowledging that meeting. Saying that there were no breakthroughs but it was useful.

We've also heard from the Kremlin that there could be potential at least from Russia's perspective for further talks with the CIA director. But of course, those talks are still way off just yet.

For now, the focus is very much on these talks looking at getting more military support to Ukraine, more modern armaments. We've seen pledges from at least nine European nations for further support on various fronts when it comes to military and intelligence. Of course, the key focus for President Zelenskyy is getting those tanks.

FOSTER: We'll see how he feeds into that meeting as well. Nada, stick around as we follow that meeting very closely. It's a crucial one for the Western alliance.

President Biden meanwhile defending his administration's handling of the discovery and disclosure of classified documents from his time as vice president. Documents were found at Mr. Biden's former office in Washington, D.C., and at the garage at his home in Wilmington, Delaware. Mr. Biden defended the decision not to publicly reveal the discovery of these documents earlier.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As we found a handful of documents were failed -- were filed in the wrong place. We immediately turned them over to the Archives and the Justice Department. We're fully cooperating and looking to getting this resolved quickly. I think you're going to find there's nothing there. I have no regrets on following what the lawyers have told me they want me to do. That's exactly what we're doing. There's no there, there. Thank you.


FOSTER: The president and his close knit inner circle of advisers are keeping tight-lipped hoping to avoid tripping any legal issues. We'll have more on the story in the next hour live from Washington.

The U.S. Treasury is using so-called extraordinary measures to keep paying the government's bills after reaching its debt ceiling on Thursday. Now lawmakers on Capitol Hill are up against a ticking clock to avoid the nation defaulting on its debt for the first time ever. A catastrophe officials warn could be a real possibility. CNN's Manu Raju has more from Washington.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Congress and the White House engaged in a risky standoff, as the U.S. reaches its $31.4 trillion borrowing limit. The White House and congressional Democrats say no negotiations to raise the debt ceiling and no conditions attached. Speaker Kevin McCarthy says the opposite.


RAJU: Is a clean debt ceiling off the table?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I don't see why you would continue the past behavior.

RAJU: Just raising the debt ceiling without any conditions, would you be open to that?

MCCARTHY: No. I mean, well -- we're six months away, why wouldn't we sit down now and change this behavior, that we would put ourselves on a more fiscally strong position.

RAJU (voice-over): Congress likely has until June to avoid default and allow the U.S. to pay bills already incurred. That has happened 61 times since 1978, including three times under President Trump, with little GOP pushback.

But to win the speakership on the 15th ballot, McCarthy cut a deal with the hard right, but the House would not raise the debt ceiling without commensurate fiscal reforms. Also agreed, to allow anyone member to call a vote for his ouster. A dilemma that could grow real as a prospect of default nears.

RAJU: Do you think that you may call to vacate the chair if he doesn't follow his concessions?

REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): I mean, that's what vacate is for, but I don't anticipate using it. I hope I never have to.

RAJU (voice-over): A first ever default could derail the world's largest economy.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): We've seen this move before. I've been here 12 years. I don't think that ended well-funded before. I don't think it won't end well for them now.

RAJU (voice-over): In 2011, when a GOP House battled the Democratic president, the U.S. saw its credit rating downgraded, and some cuts enacted in a deal to raise debt limit were later reversed.

KAREN JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There will not be any negotiations over the debt ceiling. We will not do that. It is their constitutional duty.

RAJU (voice-over): Yet swing GOP votes reject the White House's position.

REP. DUSTY JOHNSON (R-SD): But what in the world are we doing here if we're not willing to have a serious conversation about spending?

REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): I made a commitment that I'm not personally, I'm just one person not going to vote to raise the debt ceiling for don't have a plan, to either cut spending or balance the budget.

RAJU (voice-over): Republican Brian Fitzpatrick, who hails from a blue district, told CNN, I don't think that the clean debt ceiling is an order. He said he's now trying to find a bipartisan deal.

That may require Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, who has engineered ways out of a debt crisis in the past.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): In the end I think the important thing to remember is that America must never default on its debt it never has and never will.

RAJU: Now there's some belief in the Capitol that perhaps a deal could be cut in the Senate and essentially the House could be jammed, work around Speaker McCarthy. There is a process in the House to do that that would require the support of 218 members, what's called a motion to discharge. 212 Democrats, 6 Republicans signing on to that effort. But at the moment Republicans who are swing votes are not ready to go there with the White House's refusal to negotiate. As Congressman Don Bacon told me, he said there needs good faith negotiations, some commitment to finance fiscal restraint. And he said the GOP can't demand the moon and Biden can't refuse to negotiate. There needs to be give and take on both sides.

Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.


FOSTER: Debt ceiling debate was the topic of conversation amongst world leaders assembled in Davos, in Switzerland for the World Economic Forum. Another hot button issue is inflation and how to slow it down. Our Richard Quest spoke with the Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan about the challenges that he sees.


BRIAN MOYNIHAN, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, BANK OF AMERICA: Because at the end of the day, the economy, people get how much of the economic downturn pandemic was not only spackled over, so there is -- and people were given money to -- it was piled on top of it and we still have, think about it, the Social Security increases are coming through now. That's more money in people's pockets.

Companies like us, believe me, our employees are getting paid more this -- year over year, their wages grew because of the Great Resignation that we talked about last year, and those things.

The third thing is, you know, Federal employees all got a pay rise. You've got the IRA and the infrastructure bill. Neither one, much money has been spent. You've got the supplies that we should to the war in Ukraine, which actually empties our storage, we've got to rebuild.

So, all of these things are massive. And by the way, the people still have more than trillions of dollars in their accounts.


FOSTER: While an investigative team working at the U.S. Supreme Court says it has yet to determine who leaked a draft opinion overturning Roe versus Wade. The leak, the worst breach of confidentiality in the court's history became public on May 2nd when Politico published the draft opinion. The investigator say they conducted 126 formal interviews of 97 employees, all of whom deny disclosing the opinion. They also conducted a fingerprint analysis and looked for contacts between those employees and anyone associated with Politico.

The new trading day in New York gets underway in about five hours' time. Here's where U.S. futures stand right now. Negative apart from the Nasdaq up .1 percent at the moment at least. Meanwhile, European markets are up and running and they are all in positive territory but not yet reaching 1 percent mark.

Investors on Wall Street are hoping to finish on a positive note after a week of disappointing drops.


Lingering fears of a recession lingering fears of a recession helped drive down markets on Thursday. The threat of a U.S. government debt default didn't help either. The Dow and S&P 500 both finished down 3/4 of 1 percent. The Nasdaq lost nearly 1 percent.

The U.S. labeled a powerful branch of the Iranian military a terrorist group. Will the EU follow suit? The latest action by the European Parliament coming up.

Actor Alec Baldwin is vowing to fight the charges that he's now facing in the shooting death of a cinematographer on his western movie set.

Also, ahead --


DAVID CROSBY, MUSICIAN: Oh, if only, only for me.


FOSTER: The death of legendary musician David Crosby who helped write and perform some of the most beloved hit songs of the '60s and the '70s. We'll look back at his life when we return.


FOSTER: Let's go live to the military aid conference at Ramstein Air Base in Germany where representatives, including the U.S. defense secretary are gathering to talk about Ukraine's needs.

LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: ... Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov. And let me also welcome Ukraine's Deputy Chief of Defense, Lieutenant General Moisiuk.

It's great to have all these brave leaders with us. Let's give them all a round of applause.

Now, I know that everyone here was deeply saddened by the helicopter crash on Wednesday just outside of Kyiv that took the lives of more than a dozen people, including Ukraine's interior minister.


So let me express our deep condolences to our Ukrainian friends here today -- and to all of the families in mourning after this tragic crash.

We're meeting at a turbulent time. But, if you look around this table, you can see the resolve and the unity of this Contact Group. Some 50 countries have stepped up to help Ukraine defend itself and deter future threats.

When Putin launched his reckless and unprovoked invasion 11 months ago, he thought that Ukraine would just collapse. And he thought that the world would just look away. But Putin didn't count on the courage of the Ukrainian people. And he didn't count on the skill of the Ukrainian military. And he didn't count on you -- on everyone on- screen and around this table.

But we need to keep up our momentum and our resolve. And we need to dig even deeper. This is a decisive moment for Ukraine, in a decisive decade for the world. So, make no mistake. We will support Ukraine's self-defense for as long as it takes.

Now, we know that Russia remains bent on aggression and conquest. And Russian forces have increased their horrific attacks, killing many innocent Ukrainians. We saw the cruelty of Russia's war of choice again just a few days ago in the city of Dnipro. A Russian missile strike ripped into an apartment building, killing at least 46 civilians, including children.

The Kremlin's forces continue to bombard Ukraine's cities and citizens. And Russian forces have targeted power plants, theaters, sports arenas, and centers of Ukrainian history and culture. Russia's attacks are designed to break the spirit of Ukraine. But they have failed. And the people of Ukraine have inspired the world.

Meanwhile, Russia is running out of ammunition. And it's suffering significant battle losses. And it's turning to its few remaining partners to resupply its tragic and unnecessary invasion. And even Iran and North Korea won't admit that they are supplying Russia.

Just compare that to the groundswell of support for a free and sovereign Ukraine represented in this room. I'm especially proud that the United States has greatly increased its

security assistance to Ukraine. And last month, the United States announced that we will provide a Patriot air-defense battery and associated munitions. We also included Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles and other armored vehicles in that major package of security assistance.

And today, I'm pleased to announce another major new round of U.S. security assistance that helps to meet Ukraine's most urgent battlefield needs. This new security assistance package is worth up to $2.5 billion -- and it's one of the largest yet. It brings total U.S. security assistance to Ukraine to more than $26.7 billion since Russia's unprovoked invasion last February.

Our new package provides even more air-defense capabilities to help Ukraine defend its cities and its skies. And that includes NASAMS munitions and eight Avenger air-defense systems.

This new assistance package also helps meet Ukraine's urgent need for armor and combat vehicles. So, we're providing 59 more Bradleys, 90 Strykers, 53 MRAPs, and 350 up-armored Humvees. And this new package will also provide thousands more rounds of artillery.

So, the United States remains determined to lead and to do our part to help Ukraine defend itself. Now, the United States will also provide the Ukrainian forces with combined arms and joint maneuver training. And this training will work in concert with efforts by the European Union and others.

And as the United States increases our support on multiple fronts, we're also prioritizing accountability, with cooperation from the Ukrainian forces.


And we're proud to stand together with our valued allies and partners to support Ukraine's self-defense.

Poland has been a leader in providing armored vehicles, in training Ukrainian forces, and in providing shelter for Ukrainian refugees.

Our German hosts have announced that they will also provide a Patriot air-defense system for Ukraine, complementing our own Patriot contribution. Germany will also donate Marder Infantry Fighting Vehicles for Ukraine.

And last week, Canada announced that it would provide a NASAMS air- defense system to Ukraine. And that's a major investment in Ukraine's ability to defend its skies.

France also announced a significant donation of AMX-10 light tanks.

And many European countries have announced their own training initiatives, as part of the EU's Military Assistance Mission to Ukraine. These announcements, especially on air-defense donations, are direct results of this Contact Group. And today, we will continue our important work together. Our Ukrainian friends will discuss the situation on the ground and their most urgent needs, especially air defense and armored vehicles.

And then we'll discuss our complementary training initiatives.

We'll also get an update on ways to energize the industrial base, coming out of the National Armaments Directors' meeting.

And finally, we'll hear from many of the countries here today about your ongoing support for Ukraine's self-defense.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a crucial moment. Russia is regrouping, recruiting, and trying to re-equip. This is not a moment to slow down. It's a time to dig deeper. The Ukrainian people are watching us. The Kremlin is watching us. And history is watching us. So, we won't let up.

And we won't waver in our determination to help Ukraine defend itself from Russia's imperial aggression.

Now, we're honored today to have a special guest with us, President Zelenskyy of Ukraine. His leadership and grace under fire have inspired the Ukrainian people and everyone in this room. He embodies the spirit of Ukraine.

And as he told our Congress last month, "Ukraine is alive and kicking."

So, Mr. President, let me turn it over to you to share your message with this Contact Group. And thank you so much for joining us. Over to you, Mr. President.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Thank you very much, Secretary. Thank you very much for this force, very important and thank you for the condolences and this package of supporting us. Thank you.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear participants of the victory maker's coalition, grateful to you for the achieved unity and this dialogue and cooperation format. We see the results on the battlefield in Ukraine. Thank you. On the battlefield against our common enemy and I believe our unity will only become stronger with every new ground strike.

But do we have a lot of time? No. Terror does not allow for discussion. The terror which burns city after city and becomes insolent until the defenders of freedom run out of weapons against it.

The war started by Russia does not stop and I can thank you hundreds of times and it will be absolutely just in fear all that we have already done but hundreds of thank you are not hundreds of tanks. All of us can use thousands of words but I cannot put words, instead of guns, that are needed against Russian artillery or instead of the antiaircraft missile that are needed to protect people from Russian airstrikes.

And I am truly grateful to all of you for the weapons you have provided, every unit counts to save our people from terror but time. Time remains a Russian weapon. We have to speed up. Time must become our counter weapon. Just like the air defense and artillery. Armored vehicles and tanks which we are negotiating about with you, and which actually will make a victory. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the first time I am addressing you in such.