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CNN International: First Republic Secures $30 Billion from Large Banks; Poland to be First NATO Member to give Ukraine Fighter Jets; Chinese and Russian Presidents to Meet in Russia Next Week; Has Macron Gone too far Pushing Through Pension Reform; Giant Seaweed Blob Heading Toward Florida Beaches. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired March 17, 2023 - 08:00   ET



MAX FOSTER, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome to CNN "Newsroom", I'm Max Foster in London. Just ahead, anger is spreading in France over the government's decision to force through its pension reform without a vote in the National Assembly. We'll be live in Paris.

Then China has announced that President Xi Jinping will travel to Moscow next week for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin rather details of their agenda. And new smelly, massive seaweed is heading to the U.S. state of Florida, already affected by the accumulations of algae on its shores. CNN speaks to residents about how they are preparing for the impact.

America's biggest banks have come together to try to help a smaller bank that was on the brink. First Republic Bank is set to receive a $30 billion lifeline from 11 large banks the largest U.S. banks. Shares of First Republic began sliding after last week's failure of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank last weekend.

The money will give First Republic much needed cash to meet customer withdrawals and build confidence in the U.S. banking system. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was on Capitol Hill Thursday assuring lawmakers that there's no crisis with American banks and markets across Asia, the Asia-Pacific region have spent the day in positive territory as a result.

So it all seemed to work. This is how the European markets are currently looking, they're up. I can tell you, although we can't show you exactly how much at the moment or they're down now, but only marginally. Let's bring in CNN's Chief Business Correspondent, Christine Romans to sort this entire out for us.

And actually, considering the conversations we've been having Christine, there's been quite a positive story to tell here that the system did react and the markets responded positively.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, trying to draw a line under this crisis and show that on many fronts from the FDIC, Treasury regulators, banking regulators, the Federal Reserve, and now the banks themselves trying to contain this problem. This is really the biggest banks in the United States throwing a lifeline to one of their competitors, because the feeling here is of course, financial stability is for the public good, right?

And financial instability is bad for business for these other banks, as well. I mean, some of the reporting on the inside back, and you know, back channel negotiations between a Jamie Dimon the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, Janet Yellen, the Treasury Secretary and trying to get all of this together.

And what is really in recent decades been an unprecedented rescue of the industry by itself, putting $30 billion into First Republic, a smaller competitor to these other banks, because there were deposits flowing out the door every day. Now the CEO of that company, the company says that those deposits are slowing the outflow is slowing and so that appears to be a sign of stabilization.

But again, this is a remarkable series of events you have the Fed with a new lending facility that has been led to get $12 billion has been lent out under this new Fed facility. We know the disc the so called discount window, lending out records amounts tapped at the discount window.

And then you have the banking sector itself, lend - putting money injecting money into this smaller rival so just a remarkable moment here, as everyone tries to say and reassure like the Treasury Secretary did yesterday, Max that we got this under control.

FOSTER: Yes, it's been fascinating to see. Thank you, Christine --.

ROMANS: You are welcome.

FOSTER: --that happening right now, our rage and anger spilling over into the streets across France, French government forcing through an unpopular pension reform plan despite weeks of strikes and demonstrations by opponents the move is fueling fresh protests as well. Look at these live pictures coming in to us right now.

Huge crowds and the streets pretty much deserted the roads rather deserted there. On the left earlier today, demonstrators angry over the retirement age being raised from 62 to 64 blocking Paris's ring road for 45 minutes disrupting the morning commute before being dispersed by police.

And at least 310 people were detained on Thursday after impromptu protests broke out across the country. We'll have a live report from Paris coming up in just a few minutes' time we can see the extent of the anger in those images. Slovakia's Prime Minister says promises must be kept to see announced that his country will send 13 fighter jets to Ukraine.

Slovakia has just become the second NATO member to pledge the aircraft. Poland says it'll supply four Soviet era MiG-29 jets to Kyiv in the coming days. Warsaw's move could be a catalyst for other countries to follow suit, the Kremlin brushing off the pledges.

[08:05:00] CNN's Ivan Watson is following all the developments joins us from Kharkiv in Northeast Ukraine. The big question being then, Ivan, whether or not these moves by these European states will open the door for the United States to also send these fighter jets?

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and after Poland made its announcement yesterday, the White House basically said that American F-16 going to Ukraine for now, that is not on the table. But these are kind of incremental announcements of ongoing support for the beleaguered Ukrainian government.

The tweet coming from the Slovakian Prime Minister saying that, "Military aid is key to ensure that Ukraine can defend itself and all of Europe against Russia". This isn't the first time that Slovakia and Poland those governments are declared that they were going to provide these MiG fighter jets to Ukraine.

There were some announcements last year that they then have to step back from the Polish government saying that those four MIG's that they've promised could come within a matter of days, and then more after that. Would they transform the battlefield? Probably not, because most of this war is currently being fought on the ground by infantry, and with artillery, with both militaries burning through just incredible amounts of ammunition.

It is a test of manpower between much larger Russia and Ukraine and logistics and ammunition, but they are symbolic, largely symbolic gestures as well and it also contributes because Russia never established aerial superiority over Ukraine. It's still quite dangerous for Russian warplanes to fly into Ukrainian airspace because of the Ukrainian air defenses.

Meanwhile, the war on the ground continues. It's a war of attrition, it is grinding. We're getting statements from Ukrainian Military Commanders from the British Ministry of Defense that the tempo of Russian attacks along the Eastern front has diminished somewhat, but that doesn't make life any easier for civilians living in these frontline communities that have been pounded day and night for months now by a Russian long range artillery.

Meanwhile, Ukrainians are looking somewhat nervously at the impending visit of the Chinese President Xi Jinping to Moscow. China, which purports to be neutral in this conflict, has never criticized Russia for its invasion of Ukraine never criticized openly Russia for occupying Ukrainian territory and then declaring that it is going to annex it.

But the Ukrainians would much rather that a China claim some kind of neutrality than openly arm the Russians in this terrible and bloody test of wills, Max.

FOSTER: OK, Ivan Watson thanks for joining us from there. As Ivan mentioned, the Chinese-Russian Presidents will meet in Russia next week. China's Foreign Ministry says Xi Jinping will urge peace and promote talks with his meetings with Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin says they'll discuss strategic cooperation. The visit comes amid the Wests increasing skepticism really over China's purported neutral stance in Russia's war on Ukraine. Senior International Correspondent Will Ripley has more from Taipei. Just explain why this is such a huge meeting in terms of global diplomacy?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Because the outcome of the meeting, the conversation that happens between Putin and Xi could have a very serious impact on where the war goes, certainly the direction that it goes for Ukraine, despite getting an influx of weapons from the United States and the West.

You know, China has a lot of things that Vladimir Putin needs. They have ships that are sanctioned by the West that are needed to power high tech, weaponry, radar communications equipment. They also have defense companies that produce weapons and parts that Russia needs and ammunition that Russia needs.

And the United States has predicted that Russia would run out of serviceable ammunition at some point this year, but China could definitely fix that problem very easily for them. And when China is asked about this, or when they have been asked about this in recent weeks, they just point the finger right back at the United States and say it's the U.S. arming Ukraine in this conflict, ignoring the fact that Russia invaded Ukraine and seize its territory.

The other kind of concerning issue here is that, if China does actually go ahead and support this and no longer take this neutral stance that they sort of that they have in this 12-point document. This is also sending a message that they're supporting Russia in their efforts, and they're probably expecting similar supportive, whatever efforts they want to make down the road.


And of course, that raises a lot of concern here on this self-rural democracy of Taiwan, Max.

FOSTER: Will Ripley in Taipei, thank you we'll be watching extremely closely the United States now assessing its drone operations over the Black Sea this follows Russian harassment of an American drone that sent the drone down to the waters below.

The U.S. Defense Secretary says drone operations in the area will continue but the Pentagon hasn't commented on specific missions since the mid-air encounter on Tuesday. Natasha Bertrand joins us from the Pentagon, any sign yet of the wreckage?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, Max, well, what we're hearing from U.S. Officials is that the Russians have reached that crash site. And they have been able to collect some small pieces of debris, some small fragments, like Plexiglas things that are not all that significant from that crash site.

But as far as the U.S. goes, we are not being informed of any debris that the U.S. has been able to collect. And the reason for that is that the U.S. has no naval assets in the Black Sea that can readily retrieve that debris in the U.S. has said that they are assessing the possibility of going to the crash site and seeing if they can collect anything.

But ultimately, they don't believe that there's going to be anything of value really, that even the Russians can get because the drone when it crashed into the Black Sea. The U.S. believes that it craps that it basically broke into several pieces. And the U.S. importantly wiped that drone have any sensitive information.

So they don't believe that the Russians can get anything of value from the remnants of that drone. But we're also learning that the U.S. is assessing its drone operations over the Black Sea moving forward because they don't want this to happen again, right? And so they are assessing whether or not there are ways that they can better de- conflict with the Russians, who are of course, conducting operations over the Black Sea as well as part of their invasion of Ukraine.

Now, the flights in the meantime, during this assessment, they have not stopped those drone flights, we're told have actually continued since the incident happened of the collision between the Russian fighter jets and that drone earlier this week. And in fact, just hours after that collision happened, the U.S. sent another drone up over the Black Sea to monitor what the Russians were doing in terms of collecting that debris and seeing how they were reacting to the crash.

So the U.S. clearly not deterred here in terms of flying those missions, but they are looking at ways that they can better de- conflict and figure out really the value of the intelligence gathering capabilities versus the risk of escalation with Russia, Max.

FOSTER: Natasha at the Pentagon, thank you. The Presidents of Finland and Turkey are meeting this out in Ankara. Finland's bid to join NATO is front and center. This President has expressed hope that Turkey will approve Finland's entry into NATO, which requires ratification from all 13 member nations.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has recently signaled a willingness to do that, although he's still stalling on Sweden's NATO bid. Nada Bashir is falling developments for us from Istanbul. Originally, the Finnish and the Swedish bids were meant to be considered together, weren't they? But they're being separated effectively by Turkey.

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Absolutely, that was the intention of both Finland and Sweden when they applied for NATO membership last summer. But it does appear as though Turkey may now be prepared to ratify the accession of Finland separately from Sweden and in fact that has been acknowledged by the Swedish government.

The Prime Minister that speaking earlier this week, saying it is looking increasingly likely that Finland will be granted ratification by Turkey aside from Sweden but also acknowledging and stating two members of the press in Sweden that if Finland is a member of NATO, then that obviously also contributes to Sweden safety and that it's not a matter of if Sweden will join NATO. But when but of course, this is said to be the key focus of today's meeting between the Finnish President and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. We saw just the last few minutes the Finnish President's arrival at Turkey's Presidential complex; they are set to hold talks over the next couple of hours focusing on bilateral relations.

But of course high on the agenda is the question of Finland's NATO membership and Turkey has previously expressed concern over the membership of both Finland and Sweden both those concerns are primarily focused on Sweden. The Turkish government accuses Sweden of taking a lacks approach when it comes to organizations groups in Sweden.

The Turkish government considers being terrorist organization, namely Kurdish groups and that has been a primary concern. But over the last few months, and indeed weeks, we have seen intense negotiations between Turkey, Sweden and Finland. The Finnish government saying that they have done all they can in order to join NATO; they've taken part in those negotiations.

We've seen policy changes in both Helsinki and Stockholm and they feel that now they are in a position to be granted that ratification by Turkey and that was certainly the suggestion by President Erdogan earlier in the week speaking to members of the press and anchor on Wednesday, saying that Turkey will fulfill its promise.


And of course there were also similar suggestions from the Finnish President speaking to members of the press in Finland earlier on in the week saying that it was understood that in the event that Turkey would come to a decision to grant its ratification or Finland's membership of NATO that they would request a face to face meeting.

And of course that is what we are seeing today and just in the next two hours or so we are expecting both leaders to give a joint Press Conference on this matter, Max.

FOSTER: OK, Nada in Istanbul, thank you wait to see. Still to come, as French President Emmanuel Macron gone too far pushing through pension reform we're live in Paris as anger is spreading across the country.


FOSTER: As French President Emmanuel Macron gone too far pushing through pension reform many furious French citizens say yes, after Mr. Macron sparked anger by deciding to move forward with raising the retirement age without a full vote by lawmakers. This was the reaction.

Opponents once again taking their frustration to the streets and protest some starting fires and clashing with police the contentious reform bill was supposed to be voted on by the National Assembly where would likely have been defeated. So instead Macron's government is using special constitutional powers to enact it. The Prime Minister who delivered the news to lawmakers came face to face with the backlash.


ELISABETH BORNE, FRENCH PRIME MINISTER: We cannot bet on the future of our pensions, this reform is necessary. It's also because I am attached to our social model and because I believe in parliamentary democracy. It is your reform on Parliament text, furtive a compromise between the two assemblies, the time ready to engage my responsibility.


FOSTER: CNN's International Correspondent Sam Kiley has the latest on the ground in Paris. This is a country of course, where protests are ingrained in the culture, isn't it, Sam? But does this feel different to you?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Max, if you just take a look at the level of security in fact being beefed up now. Or perhaps this is a shift change with the National Police not just on this bridge just right outside where it all began yesterday at the National Assembly but on the next bridge over to.

Now the reason I think it was an explosion of unplanned and I think that's one of the key things when you're coming to discuss the French tradition for protests on the streets these spontaneous explosions of anger and much more worrying for not just Emmanuel Macron.


But much more importantly, the government of his party which is doesn't have a majority probably or possibly on Monday may face a no confidence vote. Now you got a lot of the debris and detritus, there's a tear gas canister leftover from last night. There's burn items still yet to be cleared up from the street.

And then down there in the center of the plaza, the Concord graffiti, which in short, Max, is just saying, we're not going to be dictated to by this clause in the Constitution, which was activated by Macron, or rather by his Prime Minister in order to drive this policy through, in spite of opposition inside the legislature.

Now, the unions are planning a big demonstration for next Thursday that is anticipated to be more organized. There's a far right demonstration being talked about for tomorrow. And there's everything to play for in this because this is not a new piece of policy, Max.

This is something that Macron has been talking about since 2019. Essentially, the French have a pension deficit of what 12.5 billion euros, similar amount of dollars and the government the fiscal responsibility, the government or the fiscal elements within the government saying we simply cannot afford that kind of generosity.

But it is that kind of generosity and a tradition of support from the state, which is very much at the center of the French way of life. And for that reason some two thirds of the country are supporting but if not the violence of the demonstrations that were seen here yesterday, certainly the principle that these reforms should be resisted, Max.

FOSTER: OK, Sam Kiley in Paris, thank you so much for bringing us that. Coming up, it's massive, it's stinky is heading towards Florida. See the big blob of seaweed threatening to mess up beaches in the region.


FOSTER: Tourism season in Florida makes care of the Caribbean is facing a huge threat, a gigantic blob of smelly seaweed floating in the Atlantic. It's dumping dangerous heaps across the beaches in the region we've told. Leyla Santiago shows us how the Florida shores already being impacted.


JOE KAPLAN, RESIDENT AT KEY WEST OF FLORIDA: It's the ache in the summertime builds up and smells terrible.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Joe Kaplan captured these images about a week ago, massive amounts of seaweed washing up at Smather's Beach, a beach he knows well, because he walks it several times a week.

KAPLAN: I was shocked when I saw it that day where it wasn't even spring yet. It's still winter, which is very unusual.

CHUANMIN HU, USF COLLEGE OF MARINE SCIENCE: And this is about a 5000 mile long.

SANTIAGO (voice over): Professor Chuanmin Hu is one of the leading experts on what many have referred to as a massive blob of seaweed heading to Florida's coast.

SANTIAGO (on camera): Fair to call it a blob?

HU: Nope.

SANTIAGO (on camera): No, we can't call it a blob, OK.

HU: I would never call that a blob.

SANTIAGO (on camera): OK, why?

HU: Because he's not.

SANTIAGO (voice over): Satellite images, he says show it's not one massive body of seaweed, rather a bunch of patchy clumps traveling from West Africa. It's called the Atlantic sargassum belt and is considered a natural phenomenon. Right now, it's twice the width of the U.S. carrying 6 million tons of seaweed and headed to the East Coast.


HU: In June of this year, it may turn into 20 million pounds. SANTIAGO (on camera): So let me get this straight. This is what we're seeing the last month is 6 million tons and it's going to get bigger.

HU: Yes, there's no way to stop that. This is nature just like no one can stop a hurricane.

SANTIAGO (on camera): Should we be worried about that?

HU: Nope.

SANTIAGO (on camera): Why?

HU: Reason is a sargassum is not toxic.

SANTIAGO (voice over): But it smells pretty bad and it's a nuisance for those trying to keep beaches clean to attract tourists just a few years ago. Here's what it looked like in Mexico. Officials in Monroe County, which includes the Florida keys, have set aside more than $200,000 to clean and remove sargassum from its beaches.

DAN MATTHEWS, MISS CHIEF FISHING CHARTERS: Seaweed is a mixed blessing. We need it; seaweed is a nursery for all these large pelagic fish. The negative sides of that seaweed is if it comes in the concentrations that are believed we're going to see our fishing grounds are going to be completely covered with it. There's almost no point to fishing because we're going to be spending the entire day cleaning weed off our lines.

SANTIAGO (voice over): And as the sargassum belt heads toward Florida. Another natural phenomenon is already hitting its beaches on the West Coast. Red tide that can be toxic, kill fish and cause respiratory issues this year's red tide concerns were enough to cancel at least one major event here in Indian rocks were one family visiting told us.

MARGO SAGE, CANADIAN TOURIST (ph): It as soon as my son and my husband and I got out of our car. We all started coughing.

SANTIAGO (voice over): But for spring breakers like this group from Iowa, the concerns of massive amounts of seaweed or red tide were not enough to change vacation plans.

ANNA SANDERS, TOURIST: I would rather it be red tide than raining every day.

SANTIAGO (voice over): Tourists noting friends back home.

SAGE: They'd be pretty jealous regardless of having a little bit of the red tide symptoms. They'd be pretty jealous that we're here and they're not.

SANTIAGO (voice over): Because the Pristine beaches of the Sunshine State are hard to resist for many, despite what may be looming offshore.

(END VIDEOTAPE) FOSTER: Well, that was Leyla Santiago reporting. Thank you for joining me here on CNN "Newsroom", I'm Max Foster in London. "World Sport" with Amanda Davis is up next.