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CNN International: Putin Hails Troops After Capture Of Avdiivka In Ukraine; Ukraine Urges More Intl. Support After Loss Of Avdiivka; Russians Look To Advance After Fall of Avdiivka. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired February 21, 2024 - 11:00   ET




RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning or good evening, depending on where you're watching. I'm Rahel Solomon here in New York. And as you can see, we're trying something a little new this hour. Ahead, we will bring you State of the Race and also much, much more.

Right now on Capitol Hill, for example, James Biden, the President's brother, is testifying before the House Oversight Committee as Republicans try to sustain their struggling impeachment inquiry. Meanwhile, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump comparing his legal troubles to Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died in a Russian penal colony. Plus, hundreds of workers strike at one of America's largest breweries, and thousands more could join them in the coming week. And we'll also have one more thing, scarce in the air multiple, flights diverted due to technical issues and unruly passengers.

But, we want to begin in Russia where the Kremlin is gloating after the capture of Avdiivka in Ukraine. This is video from outside Moscow, where you see Russian President Vladimir Putin thanking his troops. Russia is trying to capitalize after the fall of the key city, with its forces probing deeper and deeper into Ukrainian territory. All this as the Kremlin's all-out invasion hits its two-year anniversary on Saturday.

This week also marks a decade since the Euromaidan protests ousted Ukraine's pro-Russian government. On Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy honored victims killed in the protests. Supporters of the uprising hope that their sacrifice would pull Ukraine out of Russia's orbit and into the EU. But, at this moment, at this very moment, a major U.S. foreign aid bill remains stalled in Congress. And the Zelenskyy government says that it is in desperate need of Western weapons and supplies.

Here was Ukraine's Foreign Minister speaking to CNN's Christiane Amanpour.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Can you hold out? You say you will not fall, but a big town has fallen, or a medium- sized town, and they're putting pressure on the second biggest city in Ukraine right now.

DMYTRO KULEBA, UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: We wouldn't lose Avdiivka if we had received all the artillery ammunition that we needed to defend it. That is my answer to your question.

AMANPOUR: Simple as that.

KULEBA: I don't think it requires any additional comments.


SOLOMON: All right. For the latest, let's go to CNN's Fred Pleitgen who is live for us in Berlin. Fred, you were in Ukraine recently. I mean, is that the assessment on the ground there that this lack of aid is already having a real effect on the battlefield?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it certainly is having a real effect on the battlefield in places like of Avdiivka, especially had when we were -- we were actually with Ukrainian artillery units around that area, and they were saying that they had drastically -- had to decrease the amount of shells that they were able to fire. And one of the big issues that they were having is that the Russians just kept assaulting with more and more forces towards the frontlines. And Ukrainians were taking a lot of those Russian soldiers that were assaulting out.

But, at some point, they were simply overwhelmed because they didn't have the kind of manpower that Russia has, and they certainly didn't have the kind of firepower that Russia has either, especially in light of the fact that they just had fewer and fewer artillery shells at the ready to be able to fire at the Russian. So, yes, that certainly was a big problem for the Ukrainians in the battle for Avdiivka, and quite frankly, in a lot of other places also along the frontlines.

But, it really is only part of the problem for the Ukrainians, because the other big issue that they have is the manpower issue. The Ukrainians have had a big problems mobilizing enough people to go to the frontlines and to fight there. One of the things that units that had to leave, especially Avdiivka, said is that manpower was a big issue for them, where they simply couldn't plug all the holes, as they put it, that the Russians were seeping into as their assaults were continuing. So, that's definitely a tall task for the President, for Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his administration and certainly also for the Ukrainian military to mobilize more people to go to the frontlines and to fight there, to try and prevent something like Avdiivka from happening in the future. So, that was a big issue for the Ukrainians.

And we just had that map up, which I think is very important as well, showing some of the areas where the Russians are currently pushing because it's not just in the area around Avdiivka.


It's also south of there in the area around Marinka. You have to the south of that, Vuhledar, which is also an extremely important place. And then if you look up north, there is a town there called Kreminna that people should really pay attention to. That's also one of those places where the Russians are trying to push forward using a lot of aviation bombs, but also using a lot of their own artillery as well, Rahel.

SOLOMON: And Fred, on the issue of artillery and aid, I mean, there still remains a huge question mark in terms of what happens in Washington. But, can Europe make up the difference?

PLEITGEN: That -- it -- that's a very, very tough question, I think. Europe is going to be able to make up some of it or maybe even most of it at some point, but not in the near-term futures. It's sort of the assessment that we're getting from the ground here from Europe. Of course, some of the biggest companies that are producing artillery ammunition on the European continent are in the country that I'm in right now, are in Germany, who say that they are ramping up production. But, all of that, they also say, does take a little bit of time.

I think no one in Europe is under any illusion that the United States could be completely replaced as far as aid to Ukraine is concerned. The German Chancellor said that just last week at the Munich Security Conference that the United States is irreplaceable as far as the aid is concerned. So, certainly, the European countries very much hoping that that military aid does get confirmed by the House of Representatives. But, Europe itself is trying to ramp up the production of artillery ammunition. It seems as though it could be a little bit further this year that that really gets into gear. Certainly, European countries are sending weapons and ammo. You look at Denmark, for instance, recently saying that they're going to give all of their artillery to the Ukrainians.

But, as far as the ammunition is concerned, that is something that could bleed into the second half of the year for that actually to really get started. So, that certainly could be bad news for the Ukrainians. The Ukrainians, for their part, by the way, reacting to all of this as well. They recently announced that they want to create a whole new part of their military that relies only on unmanned system, on drones to try and make up for some of the lack that they have in ammunition, and of course, also in weapons as well, Rahel.

SOLOMON: Yeah. Ukraine, I think, has been pretty clear the last two years. The time is something that is in short supply, something that they do not have a lot of.

Fred Pleitgen live for us in Berlin. Fred, thanks so much.

All right. Now to a really stunning admission from a former FBI informant now charged with lying about the business dealings of President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Prosecutors say that Alexander Smirnov told investors or investigators that he received the information from senior Russian intelligence officials. But, that's not all. They say that the dual U.S.-Israeli citizen who was arrested last week is "actively peddling new lies that could impact the November presidential election".

Let's bring in CNN' Katelyn Polantz for more. Katelyn, really just a stunning bombshell report. Walk us through what the findings were.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Right, Rahel. The Justice Department is now making clear that they believe this longtime informant, Alexander Smirnov, this man arrested in Las Vegas last week, appearing in court this week, released as he awaits trial on lying charges for lying to the FBI as he was funneling money to them. He is now telling the Justice Department even recently that he was in touch with Russian intelligence, and some of the information that he shared with the FBI that would smear Hunter Biden and Joe Biden was coming from Russia.

That is on top of other information he was providing the FBI about Joe and Hunter Biden that the Justice Department, the Biden administration, they say is absolutely false. They've done the investigation into this. They say now that Smirnov and all of these things that he was saying, trying to connect Joe Biden and Hunter Biden falsely to Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company, at a time when Joe Biden was running for the presidency in 2020, that is information that is not correct. And that could have influenced that election. And now, they say he was getting information from Russian officials in a way that could influence the 2024 election when Joe Biden is running for reelection as the President.

From a court filing, they wrote, this is the Justice Department, "What this shows is that the misinformation Alexander Smirnov is spreading is not confined to 2020. He is actively peddling new lies that could impact U.S. elections after meeting with Russian intelligence officials in November." That was this past fall. After his arrest, he was planning, if he hadn't been arrested, to go abroad again and to meet with foreign intelligence officials. That's what he told the Justice Department. The judges letting him loose to await his trial. He is not going to be in jail for that. But, the Justice Department clearly has a lot of concerns about this man.

SOLOMON: Katelyn, how is this playing out on Capitol Hill? I imagine this really sort of gets at the heart of the Republicans inquiry and to the President.


I mean, how is this -- how are lawmakers responding to this?

POLANTZ: Well, Rahel, they are digging in. So far, the reporting we're getting out of Capitol Hill is that Republicans are saying it's not impacting their impeachment inquiry at all to know that this man had put lies into the bloodstream about Joe Biden and Hunter Biden and the financial ties they had to Ukraine, Burisma, etcetera. Those were claims that this man had made, Alexander Smirnov, that were false, and that did become part of what was fueling the Republican impeachment inquiry. Yet, they're not done. They want to keep pursuing things.

And so, Republicans right now have James Biden, Joe Biden's brother, in a closed-door deposition, interviewing him. They plan to speak to Hunter Biden again next week. In addition to James Biden, they plan to speak to Hunter Biden. And then, on top of that, they are also putting out publicly some statements saying, what's going on, Justice Department? Why were you using this guy for so long, and why are we just learning about this now?

SOLOMON: Yeah. Certainly a lot of questions. We should say that James Biden appeared there within the last hour or so. So, still really early. We'll wait to see what we can ultimately find out. Katelyn Polantz live for us in Washington. Katelyn, thank you.

Well, the trial of the weapons handler for the movie "Rust", that trial starts today. Hannah Gutierrez has pleaded not guilty to a charge of involuntary manslaughter. That's after cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed by a live round fired from a prop gun. You may remember, actor Alec Baldwin was holding the revolver when it went off. He also faces an involuntary manslaughter charge.

Let's bring in CNN's Josh Campbell, who joins us from Los Angeles. So, Josh, again, today marking the start of what prosecutors are calling justice for Halyna Hutchins. What can we expect?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Rahel. Prosecutors all along have reminded the public that someone died after this accident. No one is disputing it was an accident, but prosecutors bringing charges, trying to hold those that they believe responsible, accountable. Now, today is what's called jury selection. This is for Hannah Gutierrez-Reed who was the armor on the set of this movie. Anytime you have a movie involving firearms, you have someone whose job is to ensure the safe handling of those weapons, the safe storage of ammunition.

Prosecutors allege here that Hannah Gutierrez-Reed was negligent, charging her with involuntary manslaughter. She also faces a separate charge that involves tampering with evidence. Authorities say that on the day of the shooting, after she was interviewed by police, she had handed off a small bag of cocaine to someone. The reason why the drugs are important here is because in court filings, prosecutors allege that they believe that Gutierrez-Reed was hung over. Witnesses had indicated that she had been using drugs and had been drinking throughout the course of this movie. The reason why that's important is because if anyone on the set of that movie needs to be lucid and aware of what's happening, it's the person who is responsible for safety. Now, she all along has maintained her innocence.

But, I talked initially with the lead prosecutor in this case. I spoke to her exclusively, asking why the charges now? What is this negligence that you were talking about? Listen here to what investigators found.


MARY CARMACK-ALTWIES, NEW MEXICO FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT ATTORNEY: There was such a lack of safety and safety standards on that set, that there were live rounds on set. They were mixed in with regular dummy rounds. Nobody was checking those or at least they weren't checking them consistently. And then, they somehow got loaded into a gun, handed off to Alec Baldwin, and then he pointed the gun at Halyna Hutchins and he pulled the trigger.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CAMPBELL: Now, her attorney tells CNN that his client is being scapegoated. I think one defense that we will be looking for as this trial moves on is that, according to the attorney, Hannah Gutierrez- Reed wasn't just the armor on the set, but also been assigned other duties, including handling props. And I've spoken with numerous security experts here in Hollywood who say that that's just unheard of. If you have guns, you need to have one person whose sole job is to focus on those guns. So, I expect that we're going to hear throughout her defense that she was saddled with all these other responsibilities and making it that much more difficult to keep track of the weapons, Rahel.

SOLOMON: Yeah. Well, Josh, we know you'll keep us posted. It's a story, of course, and a case that has really gotten international attention. Keep us posted. Josh Campbell for us --

CAMPBELL: You bet.

SOLOMON: -- live in LA.

All right. Coming up, hear why the former President Donald Trump is comparing himself to the legacy of Alexei Navalny, just days away from South Carolina's Republican primary. Plus, as the threat of famine looms in Gaza, a CNN exclusive report finds that a UN food convoy came under Israeli fire despite a previous agreement on its route. We'll be right back.




SOLOMON: Welcome back. Donald Trump and Nikki Haley have three more days to win over voters before the South Carolina Republican primary. And one CBS News poll shows the former President retaining a pretty commanding lead there ahead of Haley, the state's former governor. Trump had this to say about his opponent last night. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She is not working. She is here. She is down by 30, 35 points. And everybody knows her. You're not supposed to lose your home state. It shouldn't happen anyway. And she is losing it big. I mean, really, I said big (inaudible). I don't think she knows how to get out, actually. I really don't.


SOLOMON: All right. Let's go to CNN's Kylie Atwood, who joins us live from North Augusta, South Carolina. So, Kylie, what can you share with us about how Haley's camp has been responding to some of these attacks from Trump, and what is she expecting in this primary in her home state? KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Well, listen, Nikki Haley's campaign has seen, Trump made comments pretty routinely over the last few months about his desire for her to drop out, then saying he doesn't really care if she stays out or drops in now, saying that he doesn't believe that she knows how to get out.

But, her case has been and continues to be particularly after yesterday where she delivered this speech on the State of the Race that she is going to stick it out for as long as she can here, saying that even after the South Carolina primary on Saturday that she is still going to be campaigning for President on Sunday. Her campaign is looking ahead to the Michigan primary to Super Tuesday. They're actually up with a new ad in Michigan today. So, they're putting their money where their mouth is in terms of looking ahead.

But, when it comes to South Carolina, which we're all going to be focused on, on Saturday, the polls in this state do show her considerably behind former President Trump by 30, 35 points in many of these polls, and even though earlier this week she predicted that it was going to be close. It was going to be competitive. We haven't seen her talking about specific expectations for Saturday after the New Hampshire primary where she lost to Trump by 11 points. She said that she really needed to do better than that in South Carolina. But, she hasn't been saying that recently, likely a recognition that it's not going to go incredibly well for her here in her home state.

But, her campaign wanted to make the message very clearly this week that she is still going to stick in this race. And one of the reasons that she said is fueling her decision here is that she wants the American voters to have an option at the polls. She says that they deserve to have an option before them. They don't deserve to have a Soviet-style campaign where there is just one candidate who gets 99 percent of the vote.

Now, when you talk about going ahead to Super Tuesday and potentially beyond, you do have to look at the funds. Nikki Haley's campaign had their best fundraising month-to-date in January, hauling in about $15 million. But, her super PAC, we're just learning this week, ended the month of January with only $1.9 million in cash. They spent more than $17 million in the month of January alone. So, they are dwindling in terms of resources, and that will be a critical factor as she considers how she is able to continue her campaign through Super Tuesday and potentially beyond.



SOLOMON: Yeah, saying that she plans to stick it out for the long haul. We'll see what the long haul ultimately looks like. Kylie Atwood live for us in South Carolina. Kylie, thank you.

And let's dive deeper now into all of this with today's panel. Maria Cardona is a CNN Political Commentator and Democratic Strategist. Alice Stewart is also a CNN Political Commentator and the former Communications Director for Ted Cruz. Welcome to you both. Alice, let me just start with you. I'm curious, you heard the former

President there say you're not supposed to lose your home state. I mean, does he have a point? I mean, if Haley loses South Carolina, is this just a symbolic bruise to her ego, or is there a valid point that mathematically the math is just is really not mapping?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, & REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, I mean, there is a magic number you have to get to in terms of the number of delegates you have to have or electoral votes. And she is not racking up points in that category. And look, it will be a tremendous personal and political blow to lose South Carolina. But, looking at the numbers, there is no escaping that.

But, if you listen to what she said in her speech yesterday and what she is maintained on the trail, she is in this to run for President. She is not in this to run for Vice President or a position in a Trump administration. And she made it quite clear yesterday that, look, she is in this for all the right reasons, not for her next reason, and she wants to make sure that all voters, Republican voters have a choice and not a coronation of Donald Trump. So, look, it would be hard to do from a campaign standpoint, but she is determined to continue to give Republican voters a choice.

SOLOMON: Yeah. It's interesting. We heard the former President make the point last night when discussing who he might consider for VP. He said he is not considering Nikki Haley. And as you pointed out, it doesn't seem like that's the role that she wants anyway.

Let me bring you in, Maria. I mean, one thing we also heard from the former President was this comparison that some would call at the very least puzzling to Alexei Navalny. Let's listen.


TRUMP: It's happening in our country too. We are turning into a communist country in many ways. And if you look at it, I'm the leading candidate. I get indicted. I never heard of being indicted before. I was -- I got indicted four times. I have eight or nine trials. It is the form of Navalny. It is a form of communism or fascism.


SOLOMON: Maria, your reaction to the comparison.

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, & DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It's not just puzzling. It is downright delusional. You listen to that and you think to yourself, which I guess is something many people say when they listen to Donald Trump, what reality is he living in? I think that it is clearly something that he talks about with his base. He knows that it mobilizes them. He got lots of cheers when he was talking about that on that town hall, on that other network last night. And so, he knows that this is something that certainly makes his base excited, motivates them, injects the continued belief that he is a -- someone in this country that his opponents are going after simply for politics, and that it has nothing to do with all of the criminality that he has been involved in. I think it's shameful. I think it's un-American, and I think it's

dangerous, because again, he is lying to his supporters. He is making sure that Putin also hears what he is saying. We know that Putin is somebody that he has liked before. He has said really positive things about. And he has not even been able to -- Donald Trump has not even been able to denounce Putin for the murder of Navalny. And so, I think all of that stirs the pot of how dangerous and what an existential threat Donald Trump is to this country and to our democracy.

SOLOMON: Alice, Trump also made the point -- go on. Finish your thought. Go ahead.

STEWART: No. I think, look, I agree with Maria. I think trying to put some type of moral equivalency on Navalny and Trump, that is the epitome of fake news. Look, Navalny died a political martyr, a hero. Donald Trump lives in political mayhem. That's what he thrives on. Navalny stood up to Putin. Donald Trump bows down to him. And there is one person to blame for Navalny's fate and that is Vladimir Putin. There is one person to blame for Donald Trump's fate in the legal world, and that is Donald Trump. He is engaged in a lot of legal issues because of his own doing, and to say that he is a victim or a martyr in this situation is completely false.

SOLOMON: We're running out of time. But, I would like, actually, both of you to weigh in on this. So, if you can't keep it quick. Alice, let me stick with you for a moment. Trump said last night that he would like to debate Biden, often, early, frequent.


Do you think that that's a good idea? I mean, one, standing next to Biden, perhaps some might say he could run the risk of looking less presidential. Do you think that that's a good idea for him and his base?

STEWART: I think it's a tremendous idea. Say what you will about Donald Trump, he is fiery. He is feisty, and he has command of the policies, and he can show a contrast of his policies versus the failed policies of the Biden administration. That is a winner for Donald Trump.

SOLOMON: Maria, well, what do you think? Biden, his camp, certainly they want to put them out there. They want them to look young, strong, invigorated. Is that a good idea for him?

CARDONA: I think that -- I think he should do it and I think he can do it, and I think he would wipe the floor with Donald Trump with -- in terms of his own policies, the future of this country, what he has done for the country versus what Donald Trump has done, and what Donald Trump will do. And again, what an existential threat Donald Trump will be to this country, all of the ridiculous things that Donald Trump has said, including what we just talked about, with Navalny, but also all of the insanity that has been and the chaos that has been Donald Trump on the campaign trail. So, I certainly would like to see it. Whether that's a decision that the Biden campaign is going to make, we'll see.

SOLOMON: We shall. Maria Cardona, Alice Stewart, good to see you both. Thank you.

CARDONA: Thank you.

STEWART: Thanks, Rahel.

SOLOMON: All right. Coming up for us, Russia is decorating soldiers who captured the eastern Ukrainian town of Avdiivka, as Ukrainian forces struggle with the latest setback in a war that will soon hit the two-year mark. Also, the flow of life-saving aid to Gaza is drying up amid relentless Israeli bombardment. Coming up, the latest from the Israel-Hamas war.


SOLOMON: Welcome back. You are watching CNN Newsroom, and I'm Rahel Solomon in New York. Here are some of the international headlines we're watching today.

The second and final day of the hearing in London for Julian Assange has just ended. A lawyer representing the U.S. argue that the WikiLeaks founder created a "grave and imminent risk to innocent people by publishing classified information on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan". Assange is seeking a new appeal in order to avoid extradition to the U.S.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Brazil where he met with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. The two discussed the upcoming presidential elections and may also discuss the situation in Gaza. Just a few days ago, President Lula da Silva drew criticism from Israel when he compared the war in Gaza to the Holocaust. The State Department says that Washington does not agree with those comments.

Syria says that two people have been killed and one wounded. This is after Israeli missiles struck a residential building in Damascus.


Syrian state TV say that it happened just before 10 a.m. local time, and that several missiles targeted a residential building.

UK is sanctioning six employees of the Siberian penal colony were Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny died last week. And the European Union also announcing a new round of sanctions, specifically targeting Russia's production of military drones. And the U.S. says that for its part, it will follow with "major sanctions of its own aimed at Russia's economy as well as its defense."

I want to bring in my next guest to discuss all of these topics. Ian Bremmer is the President of the Eurasia Group, and he joins us in New York. Ian, always a pleasure to have you. Thanks for being here.

IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT, EURASIA GROUP: Sure. Hi. SOLOMON: Let me start with the sanctions. I heard you say earlier that you were surprised and certainly, correct me if I'm wrong, that Europe hadn't sanctioned Russian drones as of yet. With this new round of sanctions, do you think that it will be effective?

BREMMER: No. Of course not. I was a little surprised. You think like they're fighting a war and they're seen as a war criminal. It's an illegal evasion. You think that the Europeans would have gotten around to sanctioning the drones makers and the rest so far. But, apparently, that was an oversight. I don't know. But look, the fact of the matter is that we've had 12 rounds of sanctions now from the Europeans. The assets have been frozen. That's a fairly big deal. None of this have prevented the Russians from continuing the invasion, continuing the attacks, missile strikes against cities, civilians, Ukrainian civilians across the country. And it's not going to, in part because the West needs the Russian economy to function.

Let's be clear that it is U.S. policy to allow the Russians and European policy to allow the Russians to continue to produce oil and gas and export it, because if they didn't, the world would be in a recession. It is American policy to allow them to produce food and fertilizer and to export it, because otherwise, millions of people would starve. So, you can only do so much to sanction the Russians. And the only thing that the West has found that is in any way effective on the ground in Ukraine is providing lots of weapons for the Ukrainians to defend themselves and to fight back against the Russians. And that's, of course, a big question for 2024, how much of that will continue from the NATO allies.

SOLOMON: So then, Ian, I mean, just following up on that. I mean, would you say that at least in this very moment with this major victory, the first in a year with aid at a standstill, with, of course, the death of Alexei Navalny, would you go so far as saying in this moment that it appears that Putin is winning?

BREMMER: No. No. I mean, aid at a standstill, I would take vigorous exception to. The Europeans just squeezed the Hungarians really hard and announced $50 billion a year of additional support for Ukrainian reconstruction in their budget. That is not peanuts. It really matters. The Europeans actually all in are spending more on Ukraine than the Americans are, something that we don't talk about as much as perhaps we should in the media. But, it matters.

There is a big debate about whether or not the U.S. will continue to provide military support for Ukraine. And I have no doubt that the town that the Ukrainians have lost, the first town that they have lost since last May, they've lost in part because the U.S. and the Europeans have not provided adequate levels of ammunition. The U.S. is -- there is a big debate right now in Congress. And I was at the Munich Security Conference. I saw Navalny's wife hours after she found out that he had been killed by the Russians or died in prison, excuse me, but we all know what happened. It was very emotional.

And American congressmen, Republicans and Democrats, understand that this is a direct slap to the Americans. It's Putin telling them that we -- I don't care what you do to me. I'm going to continue to act with impunity. And I do think that that is making it a little more likely that the Americans get another 20, 30, 40 plus billion dollars in military support for Ukraine in 2024. If you made me bet on that today, I'd say that those weapons are actually coming.

SOLOMON: Yeah. That's a really interesting point, Ian. Let me ask, since you mentioned this, the Munich Security Conference there, what can you share with us just in terms of your conversations, and just sort of what the sense is among world leaders about the U.S. right now, both in terms of the question mark, at the very least the question mark about future aid, but also the implications of 2024, the election?

BREMMER: They're deeply concerned, of course, and European allies, more than perhaps any other allies around the world, the Canadians are more affected, but they have no choice. They're so integrated with the U.S. economy. The Asian leaders, allies of the United States, not as worried because they know that Trump would be much more hawkish even towards China than Biden has been. And so, they feel like they'll be on the right side of that. The Gulf states, India, they don't really care.


They'll be fine with the Americans either way. The Europeans are really concerned and they're really concerned because they don't know if Trump is someone you can count on in terms of the American security umbrella, the collective security, Article 5. What would happen? For example, I was with the Estonian Prime Minister, who is a very strong figure, and her country is putting a lot more than the two percent of GDP into defense than the Americans are demanding. What would happen if the Russians were to engage in massive cyberattacks against Estonia? And would it put paramilitary forces on the ground to support an ethnic majority of Russians in the northeast of Estonia and secede from Estonia and try to join Russia? How might a Trump-led United States respond to a demand of collective security by Estonia?

And I think the answer is, they have no idea. They don't know if they'd be able to trust that the Americans would defend them if their country were soft invaded by the Russians. That's a serious problem. And the European response to that so far has been, we need to spend more money. But, the country is saying that most loudly are the ones that are already spending the most money in the polls, the Baltic, the Nordics, not the Germans or the Italians.

And it did lead to the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen talking about the need to create a common defense and industrial policy, something they should have been doing for the last 30 years. They talked about to creating a European Defense Commissioner. The whisper is that that would be Radek Sikorski, the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Poland. That's something they should have done years ago.

So, it's finally moving, and it's moving in part in response to Trump as likely, almost certain Republican nominee and very plausibly President again of the United States in 2025.

SOLOMON: Well, I mean, to that end, Ian, I guess we'll leave it here. Last question. What I thought was really interesting is that in your annual risk report for 2024, you say that the number one risk is the United States versus itself, and you make --


SOLOMON: -- the point, among other things, its political system. The U.S. is more dysfunctional than that of any other advanced industrial democracy adding, and then 2024 faces further weakening. And Ian, what I thought that was so interesting, as you make the point that whoever wins, whether it's Biden, or as you point out, presumably Trump, there will likely be a question about the legitimacy of the candidate, which leads to more dysfunction, perhaps.

BREMMER: Absolutely. I mean, Biden has been President for three years, but U.S. political dysfunction continues to grow irrespective of what you think about him now. That was true under Trump. That was true under Obama. That will be true after 2025. We don't have guardrails on the weakening legitimacy of U.S. political institutions. And the reason -- that's risk number one, is because of the impact of the United States. This political dysfunction is not coming hand in glove with the U.S. becoming weaker.

U.S. -- the United States is by far the most powerful country in the world, the strongest economy, the most powerful security capabilities, the most powerful AI and technological capabilities. And the Europeans, in particular, are very dependent upon it. And yet, its political system is increasingly far more dysfunctional than that of any European government. That's a serious problem for those leaders facing now -- entering the third year of war inside year.

SOLOMON: Yeah. And a stark warning for us all. We'll have to leave it here. Ian Bremmer, thank you for the time. Good to have you.

BREMMER: Sure. Good to see you.

SOLOMON: Famine doesn't have to happen. But, if things don't change, it will. That warning from the World Food Program as it has announced that it is suspending life-saving food deliveries to Northern Gaza because of unsafe conditions. This comes as a CNN exclusive report finds Israeli forces fired on a UN food convoy heading to Northern Gaza earlier this month. CNN has seen the correspondence between the UN and Israel's military that show both parties agreed on the convoy's route in advance. The IDF has not responded to CNN's repeated requests for comment. Now, on a separate incident, Palestinians say that desperate crowds gathering around food convoys have come under Israeli fire.

CNN's Nic Robertson has that report, and a warning that it does contain some disturbing images.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Gaza's food problem writ large, hunger trumping fear of Israeli bullets, news of a coming aid convoy carrying flour into the north of Gaza, converging crowds to plunder it. We came here and the Israelis started opening fire on us and were hit between the buildings, Hamza now says. When the fire stops, we come out again and wait for the flour. The IDF say they will look into this incident, but say they can't rule out Hamas shooting, desperation leading to looting, a growing problem in northern Gaza.


HAMISH YOUNG, SENIOR EMERGENCY COORDINATOR, UNICEF: We're talking tens and tens of thousands for 5, 10 trucks. It's -- the food that it is getting through is -- it's just a drop in the ocean. It's not nearly enough.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Theft so bad, the principal UN food supplier, the WFP, declaring Tuesday it will stop deliveries to the north. Compounding the already dire conditions, 15 percent of children under two have malnutrition.

YOUNG: It's now at an emergency level. According to international standards, once you're over 15 percent for acute malnutrition, that's a nutritional crisis and an emergency, and we are there.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The most common thing that comes into hospital is malnutrition, Dr. Abu Safia says. It creates complications, sometimes even death.

Even before the World Food Program canceled food deliveries, children venting fears shared by adults, abandonment by the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No food. (Inaudible). Shame on you. Have dare you put your children while we eat animal food? Are you waiting our death?

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The whole family is dead, Um Abraham (ph) wails. Is he the last one alive, gesturing towards her grandson? As bad as hunger is, Israel's armaments remain more deadly, Adel Abraham's (ph) home in Nuseirat, central Gaza, one granddaughter dug out of the rubble, killed in the massive airstrike. Another clings to life as rescuers give her CPR. In southern Gaza where food supplies are slightly better, this plastic surgeon just out of the besieged on Al Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, close to tears.

DR. AHMAD MOGHRABI, HEAD OF PLASTIC & RECONSTRUCTIVE SURGERY, NASSER HOSPITAL: I couldn't offer anything to my children. We used to eat only bread. My children, they want some food, some sweets. I couldn't provide some sweets for my children. My little here, three-years-old, she used to ask me many things, but I couldn't provide my little girl.


SOLOMON: Nic joins us now from Tel Aviv. Nic, just on the heels of that, really troubling story there. There is a new poll out in Israel today. What does it tell us, and how are people feeling?

ROBERTSON: Yeah. Interestingly, it asked the question about, should humanitarian aid be sent into Gaza? And 68 percent of the Jewish population of Israel say no. 63 percent of the Jewish population of Israel, when asked the question about, should there be a political deal with -- a political peace deal with the -- sorry, let me just get these statistics right for you here. 63 percent of people say that there should not be a Palestinian state. Now, that's an important because that's something that the United States is really pressing for. So, 63 percent of the Jewish population of Israel say no to that. 55 percent of the population here say -- the Jewish population here say there shouldn't be a political agreement to reach a peace deal as well.

So, there is really strong sentiment you can see here to support, at least in some ways, what the government is saying, well, the government's narrative has changed, is not quite perceived as well here. That is the government says they can have complete and absolute victory over Hamas and that 51 percent of the Jewish population of Israel say they don't believe that is possible. Interesting, the Arab- Israeli population here votes pretty much in the opposite way to what the Jewish population votes here. They want aid get in. They want a peace deal by political means, all of these things.

SOLOMON: Yeah. Really strong opinions and then feelings there. Nic Robertson live for us in Tel Aviv. Nic, thank you.

All right. Coming up for us, some of America's biggest beer makers are facing labor strikes. We'll discuss why Coors came first, and Anheuser-Busch could come next, just ahead.




SOLOMON: Welcome back. Just a few hours ago, Ford announced that it had reached a deal with the United Auto Workers union to avoid a strike at the company's biggest plant. The truck plant in the state of Kentucky had previously been without a local agreement despite the national deal reached last year to end a six-week strike. Now, at the same time, two major beer makers are facing potential work actions in the next few weeks. 400 Teamsters workers went on strike at Molson Coors on Saturday, and that's ahead of a March 1 strike deadline for 5,000 workers at Anheuser-Busch.

Let's bring in CNN Economics and Political Commentator, Catherine Rampell. Catherine always good to see you. Let me ask, it feels like we have seen a lot of strike activity, both in the U.S. and globally. I mean, what would you say is sort of behind the increased strike activity that we're all witnessing?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS COMMENTATOR, & WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: You're right that it feels like we've seen a lot of additional strike activity, in fact, because we have seen a lot of additional strike activity. The Bureau of Labor Statistics put out a report today, saying that there were 33 major work stoppages last year, work stoppages meaning strikes and/or walkouts, they don't differentiate between the two, which is the highest number since 2000. So, clearly, they are at a recent peak in any event. And I think it has to do with a few different factors. One, of course,

is that labor markets have been very tight. We've seen the unemployment rate below four percent (ph) for two years now, which means that workers have a little bit more bargaining power. You also have a lot of companies that have been doing very, very well as demand has been strong. They have high profits. And you see workers and the unions that organize them saying, well, hey, we deserve a larger slice of that pie. If you're doing well, our members should be doing well too. So, they're taking advantage of the moment.

SOLOMON: And then, what would you say in terms of what we've seen in terms of whether there is any direct inflationary impact? Is this sort of happening sort of on the margins, and so it's not enough, broadly speaking, to affect the path of inflation one way or the other? I mean, what would you say based on what we've already seen?

RAMPELL: Well, you have seen workers, again, not only those in unions asking for or demanding higher pay, because the cost of living has gone up so much. Right? They see that their existing salaries have had their purchasing power eaten away by that rising inflation. And now, wages have caught up, and in fact, surpassed inflation in the past several months or a year. And the risk, if you are the Federal Reserve, is that that can come -- become a spiral, a wage price spiral that prices go up, wages go up, prices catch up even more, etcetera, etcetera. It does not look like that has been the case in the United States. Thankfully, we are not there.


In a lot of other countries, there is somewhat more of a risk of that kind of negative spiral happening, because for example, union contracts may already bake in the cost of inflation or -- excuse me, the pace of inflation automatically into wage increases and a larger share of the workforce may be unionized. So, you can see more of that happening, for example, in a lot of European countries where the institutions are just very different. And of course, if it's your salary that is rising to keep up with inflation or even surpass inflation, that's great. You want that to be the case. The problem is, if it happens economy-wide, it can be challenging. Of course, it doesn't seem like we are there yet within the United States. I don't think that that's really a risk at the moment.

But, you're going to see more of these labor actions happening, or, again, not even necessarily organized actions, but individual workers saying, hey, labor is scarce, continues to be scarce. My cost of living has gone up. I demand higher pay.

SOLOMON: Yeah. Really interesting. And as you point out, I mean, workers have had the upper hand. It'll be curious to see in 2024 if that remains to be the case. We'll get the next jobs report next Friday. And I'm sure you and I will likely be talking about it then. Catherine Rampell, thank you.

RAMPELL: Thank you.

SOLOMON: All right. Apple looking to get a bigger piece of the sports market. It just launched Apple Sports. It's a free iPhone app, giving fans access to real-time scores, statistics and news. This comes after the company secured rights to Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer games for its Apple TV Plus service. Now, the new app won't actually stream those games. Instead, it'll point users to the service that they're being shown on. And after that announcement, let's take a look at Apple stock. Last I checked, it was up about a third of a percent, still up about a third of a percent. And the Dow Jones, Nike, Verizon, all in the green. Taking a look, Dow, broadly though, actually slightly lower. NASDAQ was off about half a percent and the S&P off fractionally as well.

Take a look around the world and you can see global markets look a bit more mixed, FTSE 100 closing lower. Let's call it three quarters of a percent. Asian markets closing higher, about one percent to 1.5 percent.

And when I come back, I'm going to have one more thing, and it's the scare in the air and the last thing that the flight industry really needs right now while we are learning about an emergency landing in Denver, Colorado. We'll be right back.


SOLOMON: All right. Announcing today is one more thing, scares in the air creating new unwanted attention for the U.S. airline industry. So, first, a United Airlines flight landed safely after being diverted to Denver due to problems with the wing. A passenger said that he heard vibration, then looked out the window and saw a pieces of the wing missing. You never want to hear that. Then, Tuesday, a flight to Chicago was forced to return to Albuquerque, New Mexico, shortly after takeoff, and that was due to an unruly passenger.

Let's bring in CNN Aviation Correspondent Pete Muntean. So, Pete, what do we know about this unruly passenger?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: This unruly passenger problem was a really big thing back in 2021 during the federal transportation mask mandate, but it seems that we could not ditch it and it continues to be a problem still in 2024. This passenger was on board this American Airlines flight. And other passengers on board tell CNN, the man was sitting in emergency exit row.


He tried to open the emergency exit, in fact, got the cover off that leads to the handle. Passengers started yelling. They tackled him, and then flight attendants came in and restrained this man with duct tape and flex cuffs. This was on American Airlines flight 1219 between Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Chicago, O'Hare, diverted back to Albuquerque because it's happened only about 20 minutes into the flight. You can see the video there where he is being led down the fire escape stairway on the jetway by police back in Albuquerque. Not clear if there has been an arrest here yet.

But, we do know the FBI is investigating. Also, the FAA investigating. It says, so far this year, there have been 254 incidents of unruly passengers on commercial flights. Compare that to the more than 5,900 cases back in 2021. The rate of incidence has gone way, way down. It did go up a little bit last summer. But, Rahel, my top tip on a commercial airliner, make sure you don't check a bag, but also be kind to your flight crew and try to keep it in the lane. Don't freak out. That is the big thing, and we keep seeing it over and over again.

SOLOMON: Great advice, Pete. Thank you. Keep calm. Chill out.

MUNTEAN: It should be obvious.

SOLOMON: Let's just be good to each other. Thank you, Pete.


SOLOMON: All right. Well, we know your time is money. So, thank you for spending some time with me. I'm Rahel Solomon in New York. Stay with CNN for One World coming up next.